I Have To Dance: Grieving For a Suicide

Dance by Red Haircrow
Dance by Red Haircrow

It’s never an easy thing, even if it is someone you haven’t seen in a long time. When you hear what’s happened, when you learn they are dead, for me anyway…when I am first told, I breath a sigh of relief. You might think that’s odd, but I the first thing I think is, “They are finally free of this.”

They no longer have any cares. The terrible thoughts and memories which have plagued them are now laid to rest. As a person who actually survived multiple suicide attempts, I do remember some of my thoughts as I felt the slide into nothingness. Then, ironically, which is a part of a the “misthoughts” of depression, I felt relief that I would no longer have the agonizing repetitive memories and the flashbacks. I would no longer have to see, feel, and remember in my body and mind and nose the pain, the words and scents of abuse. I just wanted to be away. I was cognizant of the fact my parents might grieve for me, or a former lover or an acquaintance with which I’d worked, but I rationalized my actions because they’d never understood the enormous burden each day, each breath had cost me.

When I learned this evening, after Native American class, after the high laughter, jokes and playing about of the children, that a young man I’d known since he was born had taken his own life, it took some time for it to truly sink in. I remembered myself at that age he’d shared when he died, the times in my own small flat I cried hours unto unconsciousness, when I’d fought with myself just to endure another day or take the overdose or knife which would finish me.

I suspect what happened to him. At times you could see the boy that used to be, but at others….I saw myself in him: the anger, the guilt, the fatalism. And when people don’t understand or they’re looking to give a pat soapbox preaching, they tell you you should be doing better, doing something with your life, not be such a loser. And they don’t know the pain in your soul that you can’t speak of, and maybe, even if they did, they would tell you to shut up and never speak of it. They’d tell you: you should be stronger, but they don’t tell you how.

When you reach that point where no voice makes sense, you just know you want to be away, and that whatever voice has spoken to you can’t stop the raw wound of your innocence from bleeding, you take yourself out of the world. You die alone, from your own hand.

Don’t condemn. Don’t rationalization or make excuses or try to give religious platitudes or talk about organizations who could have helped. When someone is at that time and they’ve been rejected over and over, that person doesn’t remember the numbers to call for the help lines. If people did, you wouldn’t read of the suicides or unexplained deaths. You just want to go away where no one hurts you anymore, or where you don’t do things which bring you even lower and you don’t know how to stop.

I grieve for him tonight, and I’ll sing. I’ll dance also because I hear the songs they sang when my great-grandmother died, and my uncle, and my friend, and my other son. I feel them all, and though I can only hold some of them in my mind this moment, it is with all my soul and heart. I’ll dance for him tonight, the warrior who tried to fight, but was lost.

Soldier Boy.


The Red Bull Singers, “Darling Don’t Cry”

Black Lodge Singers, “Soldier Boy”

The Red Bull Singers, “Tearful Honor”

Per comment: “This is a travelling song. The living sing this song so the spirits of the dead would find their way to the spirit world. When they pass, the spirit travels for three days on this world and we sing to help them not to get lost.”

14 thoughts on “I Have To Dance: Grieving For a Suicide

  1. This is something that resonates with me quite deeply and you’ve written it well.

    One thing that strikes me about suicides is that someone invariably talks about how selfish the person is/was. To me the true selfishness is expecting a person to live for them, despite whatever pain and hopelessness they might feel. The world is a tough place but people are so willing to take a big step back when a suicide happens and say, I had nothing to do with this even though we’re humans and we need each other and we’re humans and the world is rough and unequal and rubs you raw.

    I like that you spoke of relief, instead, because that is why we think about suicide, and why some of us do it. Because we just want to be done. People who haven’t experienced that should perhaps be silent until they’ve thought deeper than “how could they be so selfish?”

    1. Complete lack of perspective and empathy. Contrary to what some of those might think, it’s not a light decision, and often not what hasn’t been attempted or contemplated before. Sometimes, there is so much….you know what I mean. I learned balance and to keep dancing because there’s nothing else I can do, so I might as well do it with my whole-heart just for pure defiance’s sake, but there is not a day which passes when my memories do not come close to overwhelming me. Very much a lack of understanding on the people’s parts who say such empty self-absorption: “selfishness.”

      It’s why I keep working and reaching…and speaking. Keep trying to reach those who don’t need platitudes, but true emotion and friendship, to let them be angry when they need to be, and tear what they need to apart, but also that they must come back together and we’ll help. He called his mother to say he loved her and wish she’d loved him. He called the police to tell them where to find his body, then he shot himself. I am exhausted today. Completely and utterly, but I’ll sing and dance again tomorrow.

  2. I chose to write. I chose psychology in the hopes that I could take my pain and make it in to something that could perhaps help other people. I’ll keep at it until I can’t anymore, because that’s what is in me to do. But I never think ill of suicides. Everyone has a right to their life, and sometimes that means the right to take it. I commiserate with your grief and respect the path you are taking to allow it expression.

    1. I also. I think that’s why, at this point in time anyway, although I do write fiction also….I’ve felt the need to concentrate more on non-fiction and memoir topics. It’s a part of my way of hopefully helping others.

  3. I an sorry to hear of your loss but like you I view it as type of moving into the no more pain zone. Does that make sense? I’m horrible with words. I’ve thought of suicide many times in my like. Just wanting the pain to stop. Wanting to not be here. I’ve been given the selfish lecture.

    About 10 yrs ago a very close friend committed suicide. While I grieved for her I was also relieved. Relieved that she no longer had to suffer. I was scared about how her funeral service would go. I didn’t have a clue as to how the Reverend would approach the topic of suicide and feared he would use it as a platform for a sermon on how suicide was a major sin. Instead, he spoke of freedom.

    1. Yes, it makes sense to me. I referenced something like that in the first chapters of my memoir, The Boys Who Died . If one has experienced it truly in that way, it can be understood, and if one has true empathy, whether one has experienced it or not, it can be understood better.

      I suppose that is a part of why on a whole I reject Christianity, not because I don’t respect a person’s beliefs, but because too many people and churches have made it a platform to give their personal interpretations or judgements, when it is not for us to judge. I respect the ones like the man you mentioned who show the true compassion of their Christ.

  4. I am sorry for your loss. Like Megan Root I had a friend commit suicide many years ago. The day that we discovered her death, a pastor was brought in to help comfort the grieving. He brought us into a circle and told us the devil was with us and was using her to tempt us to evil. Those words have forever tainted my memory of my friend, her suffering and the steps she took to finally end it.

    Tonight, I will dance, and sing for your friend and for mine.

    1. I was eighteen. My first almost lover committed suicide. Two years later, a close friend suddenly committed suicide with no warning, yet his death had a common theme. I was vehemently treated for being what I am by Christians, so also were the others I mentioned, and in the history of my people. So, too, was the young man who just killed himself.

      I remain respectful and accepting of individuals, and have many Christians friends, but I can find no greater hatred in me than what I feel for general practitioners of Christianity and the attitudes so many of them direct towards people who don’t “fit” in their religious books, or in their minds and whom they feel they must condemn and attempt to change or reject utterly. Just as their history shows, they have killed or caused the deaths of more people than any organization, people or religion combined, not to mention the suffering: emotional, mental, physical and spiritual they’ve caused others.

      Thank you for your dance, please spread the word of tolerance.

  5. I am so sorry for your loss. I hope he will find peace and recognition. Those are always hard topics: life and death, beliefs, appreciation. In truth, we are all the same souls looking for love and warmth, trying to be happy and fulfilled.

    1. Yes, I really believe this: “…we are all the same souls looking for love and warmth, trying to be happy and fulfilled.” Thank you for your message…

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