SL Letter of the Day: Pain Can't Be Avoided

Comments

1
The last sentence was unnecessary and a bit cruel. Everything up to it was spot on.
2
It would be awful to feel as if you had caused the suicide, but I can't re-enforce enough what Dan has said. You are not to blame. No really, end of discussion.

The guy you were with emotionally abused you while you were together and is continuing to do so. Don't allow somebody to do that to you. You are worth more than that. You owe it to yourself to live the only life we have.
3
@1: I agree.
4
Callous sign off there, Dan. It's not as you immediately stop loving people once you break up with them, and it's not as if you need to win the pain olympics to be deserving of sympathy.







And, I think you sort of missed her point. Even if the thought of causing someone pain is not literally "too painful to bear", I think she's saying that knowing she is causing other people pain is extremely triggering because last time that happened SOMEONE DIED.







Anyway, PAIN - I don't know if this "goes away", but it sounds like you're doing all the right things. Maybe you have to ease yourself back into being willing to cause people a reasonable amount of pain. If you start with lighter relationships, and have the usual ups and down, and nothing bad happens, maybe you can build up a tolerance so you will be more willing to take bigger risks with people.







Also, I think you should be pretty up front about your history when things get more serious, and if you find yourself with anyone who takes suicide lightly, or threatens it as a way to manipulate you, you should get away from them quickly. This has probably opened up a vulnerability that you need to take extra care to protect.
5
What @ 1 said. No wonder The Stranger is bleeding employees. I can only imagine what you say in staff meetings.
6
Something similar happened to me in high school, although the outcome was institutionalization rather than suicide. Here's how I got over it: I got mad. Mad at this gal for being so fucking damaged that she couldn't cope with basic life events. Mad at her parents for fucking her up so much. Mad at me for not pulling the plug on that shitstorm earlier. Mad mad MAD.

I got myself so worked up that I burned all the guilt away. Of course, anger is not necessarily a logical response, but then neither is guilt. And unlike guilt, you can only stay angry for so long before you just... get over it.

Anyway, that's probably not the therapeutic way of dealing with such things, but it worked for me. :)
7
I also agree with @1. She wasn't asking for anyone's pity; she wanted advice.
8
@6 Interestingly, I was just reading a book about recovering from toxic relationships, and the person who wrote it, who is a therapist, advised that the first step is to get angry. That you need to feel, accept, and release that anger before you can move on. You don't try to stay angry forever, but you do need to go through anger to get better. So, maybe it is the therapeutic way of dealing with such things.

I do think, however, it is vital that the letter writer come to understand and truly accept that she did not cause the suicide. Whatever was broken inside her partner did, and that was not her fault or doing. It's sad he didn't get help, but not being able to handle a break-up means there was a much deeper issue there. Which means, it wasn't about the pain she caused him. It was about the pain he was already in.
9
Didnt react to Dans last line as being cruel. It's true. The boy lost his life, his family lost a son and brother.
Who really writes to Dan, expecting some cotton wool response? There there dear.
LW. Did you not take this boy seriously when he threatened suicide? Is the guilt coming from there?
An 11 yr old Aboriginal boy, killed himself a few weeks ago. Too much pain at too young an age.
Pain is in life. Part of life from the get go.. Heartache, yes, sometimes madness making.
Maybe LW, really check out these young men before you engage too deeply. Sort of families they came from. Their relationships with their parents.
How they deal with everyday issues, how strongly grounded they are in their own identity.
10
Yo, yo, wasn't this a Dan Savage question awhile back?

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/11/rick-…

11
I know that the last words of Dans advice sounded harsh, but here's an alternative view. It ain't warm fuzzy. The LW isn't responsible because ultimately suicide is an act of selfishness. You take your life despite knowing that it will cause your loved ones to grieve immensely forever. Really? You're so important?



Before everyone starts barking, I've known severely depressed people, I've had family members commit suicide, and mostly this opinion is/was formed by my grandmother who lived though a number of suicides.



Please consider this viewpoint for ripping into me. Thanks.
12
Nope. Another vote against that last bit. I don't feel sorry for the ex in the least. While he was alive, he was a person in great pain, and for that I've got plenty of empathy. But his suicide was an act of violence and abuse. At the moment he ended his life he became a supremely selfish asshole that deserves no more consideration than any other abuser. Fuck him.
13
Just want to add, in the Buddhist tradition guilt is seen as a pretty useless emotion. One feels regret for actions or words . Only you know LW, what the parameters of your relationship with this boy were.
When my eldest son died suddenly of a heart attack at 31, ten yrs ago. I had to really stop and face how my actions or stupid young woman selfish mothering, whatever, had contributed. Really feel deep regret. I know what you mean about such experiences being transformative. I also had to see he was an adult when he died. Had been choosing his life path for many yrs.
Suicide, of course , leaves people feeling very wretched.
You did not kill this boy, LW. He killed himself. His choice. He didn't want to face his pain and trust that it would pass.
Let him go.
14
FUCK, Dan, how much had you had to drink before you vomited that last line? Nasty.
15
This reminds me of the C.S. Lewis quote that Zen Pencils covered a while back. “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal.”

It goes on from there, but basically, anyone willing to risk getting into a relationship has to know from the outset that pain is a very likely outcome. Even if everything is 'perfect' and you never break up, you'll be parted by death some day.
16
In dealing with suicides of my friends & loved ones, I've found it helpful to acknowledge & respect their decision to end their life.

They were clearly in terrible pain.

Not to diminish our sadness & loss, but in the end, it was their life & therefore their choice. We all get to decide what we do with our lives, & you, too, get to decide how you go on with yours.

Remember: other people are ALWAYS the variable. We can only control ourselves.
17
@6 & @8: yes absolutely. Getting mad is an important part of grieving, b/c it puts you back in the driver's seat and helps you push forward. It's not the final stage- that's acceptance/forgiveness. But anger helps set limits and boundaries. So much new age philosophy glosses over anger and makes it seem like the devil incarnate. Not so! Anger is an important emotion too- but like anything else, moderation is key. Knowing when to say when & move on is what helps the healing process.



And yea- I think that last line from Dan was cruel, b/c it reinforces the idea that the LW is not entitled to her grief. Just b/c someone else's grief is worse, doesn't mean yours doesn't count. She just needs to hear that her feelings matter.
18
Was there some edited out part of her letter where the writer claims to be suffering more than anyone else because of the suicide? Because, yeesh. Yes, I too feel sorry for ex's parents, but that doesn't really solve the dating problem, does it? That line felt like a metaphorical stubbing out of one's cigarette on the letter.
19
Maybe I'm missing something, but I didn't find Dan's last line cruel. Curt, blunt, perhaps caustic, but not cruel. She lost a man whom she had been dating three years and whom she was leaving. His parents lost a child they had loved for about 25. The guy lost his life. Sorry - but she wasn't the biggest loser here. I understand her fear and remorse, and I would feel much the same way, biubthat doesn't mean she is the person most deserving of pity.
20
@19 This isn't a competition. She can have full sympathy without taking away any sympathy from others who were also harmed. But since the other people didn't write in, it doesn't help them to mention that Dan has sympathy for them. So, what good does it do to point out that other people are hurting even more? It doesn't detract any from her pain. And there are always people hurting more. That's no excuse to not be kind to somebody who is hurting. So, all I can see it as doing as being a painful reminder of the pain others are suffering that the letter writer is already feeling too responsible for (even though she is not responsible for it). And their pain really has nothing to do with her or this letter. So, why bring up a painful subject at her, when it helps nobody and hurts her?
21
If the guy was getting regular mental health care, and still tried to kill himself three times with pills, cutting, and strangulation, and then finally succeeded by jumping off a bridge, you could maybe judge that he was pretty damaged or fragile -- "too damaged or too fragile or too depressed to withstand what would be a painful but endurable".

On the other hand, if the guy were just sitting around feeling down and suddenly picked up a gun he happened to keep around the house, and used it, then you might not judge him to be quite so fragile or damaged.

So if they only information you have is that he committed suicide, you're not in a strong position to judge exactly how messed up he was.

You need to have all the context and circumstances before you start to assign blame for a suicide, or absolve blame. Maybe the one thing that would have prevented this isn't his girlfriend dumping him. Maybe it wouldn't have happened if lethal means hadn't been right there. Or maybe if mental health care had been more accessible. Who knows? Can't say from this letter.
22
Some men, when faced with a woman who wants out of the relationship, choose murder rather than (or in addition to) suicide.



Dating can lead to many terrible things. And as Dan points out, even good relationships involve causing each other pain.



Maybe you're not ready yet, to be dating. Maybe work on friendships and reconnecting with your family, and your therapy. When you can accept the likelihood of causing pain (and feeling pain) as the trade-off for intimacy, then you'll be more ready.
23
If my suicide attempt, which was the only way out of conversion therapy, had been successful, would Mr O be calling me a selfish abuser, and would Mr Savage be having the presumption to feel sorry for the people who had put me into that ghastly situation? Perhaps Mr O would give me a pass for being a minor, and I'll assume even Mr Savage's assimilationist overreaches don't extend to expressions of first-tier sympathy for bullies who are major contributing factors to a suicide.

I can't get enough of a read on this particular suicide to say much about it. On what's presented, I can give a general agreement with most of the remarks addressed to LW. I certainly am not going to presume that an unknown person's blood relations were his loved ones. If I ever did so, it would probably immediately come to light that the deceased hated (for good cause) those to whom I'd given the favourable presumption.
24
I'll dump on Dan for 1/3 of the last line. Yeah, the parents and siblings almost certainly went through more than she did. And the LW should put that into perspective - losing a BF to suicide sucks. But less than other things in life. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and move on.

But the bit about the XBF deserving more sympathy? Nope. His suicide was a dick move. He was a selfish, dysfunctional, narcissist. She shouldn't feel any more guilt or self-condemnation than if she'd broken up with any other garden-variety asshole - the verbal abuser, the physically violent, the moocher, or pathological liar.

It's fine for someone to commit suicide if they aren't doing emotional violence to others in the act. If they won't wrap up their relationships first, then their cruelty is showing. Just like the proper way to do a murder-suicide is to commit the suicide FIRST!, he should have broken up with the LW and THEN offed himself. To do it as he did demonstrates his selfishness.
25
Ms Erica - I like "more ready", from which one might well infer that nobody is ever really 100% ready.

Your opening sentence is quite subtle.
26
Why all the hating on Dan for the last line?

I feel sorrier for the family of the ex too. She'll move on, it'll be harder for the family to move on. Suicide (if that's what this guy did) is harder for the family.

I'd say the same thing to the writer. Not your fault. Some people are messed up regardless of whether you're in their life or not. Don't blame yourself. Go ahead with your life.
27
I thought the last line--which I agree isn't well put--was meant to indicate that she didn't lose that much (i.e. "not a relationship [but] a hostage situation") and serve as encouragement, not as a put down.
28
Threats of suicide and actual suicide are abuse tactics. I don't see suicide as inherently selfish as some people do, but committing suicide deliberately as a "fuck you" to someone else is selfish and abusive. I have no sympathy for the boyfriend. Good fucking riddance. His parents must have been nasty pieces of work to raise an abuser.



Letter writer is lucky he didn't kill her first.
29
@25, thanks, but I suspect it benefits from being set off by all that (#@&$^%!!) white space.
30
ven @23, for the record, I am a firm believer in an individual's right to suicide: my life, my death, my choice. However, there are times when suicide may be the right choice [terminal illness, altruism, even honor] and times when it is just a shitty, selfish or even aggressive thing to do.

Your choices were made of necessity; I am very sorry for the crap that you were put through.

The LW's ex made his choices to threaten and punish. While I might have some understanding for an abuser, I don't have a lot of compassion.
31
@PAIN: I've lost a friend to suicide, and I was also intermittently suicidal for about 6 years, so I can see this from both sides. Something that it took me a long time to understand, was that my friend's suicide wasn't about me, but about her. Similarly, your BF's suicide wasn't about you, but about him. I don't know any details about your case but I've been suicidal myself long enough to know that. And you're looking at this from the angle that's least favourable to yourself. It's equally true that you were a light, perhaps the light, in his life for years. He would quite possibly have killed himself years before but for you. Please give yourself some credit :(. Honour your memories of him; grieve his death; and move on when you're ready, which is when you're ready and not when anyone else thinks you should be.

People react to these things in completely different ways that don't necessarily make sense to outsiders. It took about 5 years before I regained my emotional balance after my friend's death. So, it's been 3 years for you. I don't think it's the end of the world that you're still having issues when dating, something that will trigger a ton of associations for you. (The first time I tried dating after my friend died I just cried uncontrollably for an hour.) Why shouldn't you still have some healing to do?

I wish you all the best. If you haven't heard Dan Fogelberg's song "Netherlands", maybe try that. It helps me.

@Others: People who are saying that the guy's family are hurting worse than PAIN are clueless. Maybe that's true, but maybe not, too. I've lost my father as well as the friend I mentioned, and losing that friend hurt 10,000 times more. (I'm reasonably sure that it was the most painful experience I'll ever have.) In my case that makes no logical sense, but the grief at losing someone is an emotion, and like any emotion it is what it is. And clearly the boyfriend thought that his relationship with her was more important to him, and bringing more to his life, than his relationship with his family.

@24: I think you're being hard on the XBF. My friend suicided because that was the place she was at in her life. Judging from the messages she left, she was very naive about how the survivors would feel. Expecting someone who's in such bad shape that they commit suicide to be super mature about it is unrealistic. (!!!) I don't blame the BF - nobody suicides because they think that's an awesome option - but at the same time, (here 24 & I agree) all my sympathy is for her, not him. He got out of his pain, and lost a life that had no value for him. "One road was simple / acceptance of life / the other road offered sweet peace." She's still in her pain. And, as I said, it can hurt unbelievably much.
32
I thought the last line was pretty dickish too. She asked for advice, not an assessment of who was in the most pain.
33
"I would really appreciate a response from you...", this young woman wrote to Dan. He gave his response.
34
My sister had three of her boyfriends commit suicide. One was her long term high school sweet heart, another was an ex from high school and the last was a guy she'd been seeing. They all had their own reasons to take their own lives, and recovering from such a tragedy takes a long, long time.

You are not to blame for his actions. You had no control over his actions or anyone else's. You cannot let yourself be dictated by their actions.

Sometimes suicide is a way of lashing out and hurting those around you, and in my opinion such an action is the ultimate temper tantrum. You can fuck up a lot of things on your way done, and never see the consequences of your actions. You never get to see how it destroyed a marriage. Or turned someone into an alcoholic. Or stopped a partner from ever entering a relationship again. It's so much more selfish. Maybe you should be a little selfish too?

This isn't a ringing endorsement to go and become a heartless bitch, and I don't think you ever were. The fact that you're feeling this way tell me you aren't. You should continue to live your life in the way that you want. And you should drop your guard and let others in. If a particular boyfriend or girlfriend seems worth taking things to the next level (despite things looking sour at the moment), disclose your past to him/her. The way they react when you tell them about what happened will be a more telling litmus test than any possible deal breaker. If they are worth it, they'll accept the fact that such intimacy won't be easy and that you'll need time. And if things aren't working out, how they break up with you or take you breaking up with them will tell you more about them as a person.

Yes, being in a relationship can be painful. It's a hedgehog's dilemma.
35
Boo last line, unnecessary and hurtful. BUT I will say that sometimes harshness can jerk us out of cyclical thinking. Hopefully that was Dan's intention as opposed to a gratuitous smack. LW, it's time to stop torturing yourself-you did what you thought was best at the time, that is all any of us can do. While moving back into the dating world be patient with yourself and pay close attention to the types of people you choose to spend time with. Sometimes self destructive patterns sneak up on us-don't let them.
36
About that last line - the LW seems to spend a lot of time worrying about hurting other people, which probably has a lot to do with how that makes her feel. Reminding someone to think outside of themselves can really go a long way to helping them get past guilt issues.
37
I don't get what the problem is with the last line. I think there was sort of a kindness in it. Because if you have someone feeling sorry for you, it sort of validates why you feel bad about yourself. The kindness in what Dan said was "while I understand the situation must have been difficult, it's the same kind of difficulty in any relationship ending. but as far as the ending of the life was concerned, you'd already moved on (your right) so let's feel a little sadness on behalf of the family this guy left behind."
38
@36, 37: I agree that it was probably intended that way, but it doesn't come across well. At the very least, it seems like the last line could have come out better. As it is, it comes across as pointlessly nasty rather than helpful.
39
What is this fixation with the last line of Dans response?
Loosing a child is a horrible, horrible experience.
This girl was with him for three yrs, and had already broken up with him. Her grief and anger comes from a different place.
How can any of you assume his family were horrible people?
Maybe saying this to the LW, might remind her to check how they too are fearing with their loss.
40
Holy shit Dan, what happened to the empathy and compassion you showed when a woman in a similar circumstance to PAIN called the Lovecast and you focused primarily on counseling her? If this was a 16 year old girl not wanting to end a 3 month relationship then your line "Really? Just the thought of hurting someone is too much to bear?" would be appropriate. But PAIN went through a pretty damn traumatizing experience that will leave her wondering if she could have done something different that would have saved his life (e.g. call his parents to let them know about her concerns for his safety).

Here is what you should have done:
A) Begun with "you are not to blame for your ex-boyfriend's suicide"
B) Move on to the reality that pain is something that will come in ANY relationship (and drop the condescending "Really?" and "then you're disqualified..." because like I said earlier, that is appropriate for a teenager ending a 3 month relationship).
C) Recommend she talk to a therapist about this because being uneasy about future relationships after your ex commits suicide is a reasonable problem, one that can get better much faster with therapy.
D) End on your final note that you want to extend your sympathy to PAIN's ex's parents and siblings because all the anguish that PAIN is going through, they are experiencing it several times over.
41
If I absolutely HAD to take a position, I could live with going along with prevailing opinion, but just can't bring myself there voluntarily, which would be really tough without hearing the voice of the person himself.

To give an example of my sympathy tiers (a bit like Joan Plumleigh Bruce and her chest of drawers), I'd put the Musgroves from Persuasion squarely in the middle tier, or maybe just above it. The deceased, although not a suicide, had been sent to sea because he was stupid and unprofitable on land and of no particular use to anyone, and it was about all his mother could do for him some couple of years later to call him poor Richard and sigh over how well he might have turned out.
42
@20--you make good points. Thanks.
43
Dan, Your Roman Catholic upbringing shone through in your final line! It happens to me sometimes too. I think I have purged myself of all the detritus of a Catholic upbringing, then I react to a situation just like the nuns taught me. For your penance, say three Our Fathers, Three Hail Marys........Oops, I did it again.
45
Oh, come the fuck on, 44 -- getting narcissism out of "My boyfriend said he would kill himself if I left him and I left him and he killed himself, and now FOR SOME PECULIAR REASON I find myself excessively scared of hurting people" is beyond unreasonable and even more unkind for the sake of being unkind than Dan's line was. I very much doubt her therapist hasn't already pointed out to her that she isn't to blame for her ex's suicide, but knowing it intellectually and feeling it enough to get over that fear.



Learning that hurting someone is sometimes inevitable and doesn't make you a terrible person is not easy for many of us, even those who didn't go through anything so traumatic.
46
@44, the LW said that her BF made comments about suicide while they were dating, and said stuff like not being able to live without her. I didn't get a sense that the LW believes she is the sole reason this guy committed suicide, just that her dumping him was the trigger for it (this is my interpretation, admittedly). I think in this situation it's appropriate to stress to her that it really wasn't her fault. Seriously, how would you feel in her situation? I don't care how rational one might be, that shit's fucked up.

@LavaGirl, I'm so sorry about your son. I can't imagine how painful it must be to lose a child, not matter how old he was. Perhaps Dan, as a parent, wrote the last line in the same frame of mind that you're reading it in. I do agree with @38, however: the line was probably well-intended, but it did come off sounding a little bit nasty.

@41 Ha! I'd forgotten about "poor Richard." I'd say middle drawer is about right for them; no matter how much of a waste of space the guy was, he was still their son, and the not terribly bright or introspective (but still very nice) Mrs Musgrove grieves for her son, as opposed to the person he actually was.
47
I didn't love that last line, either. :/ I think what Dan might have been going for was a kinda of smack across PAIN's chops, a bracing end to some otherwise kind advice.

For those of you saying that last line *only* mean, though, or pinning it on Dan drinking, or a knee-jerk Catholic reaction to suicide, you should know that when Memorex (he was a Slogger friend of mine) took his own life about a couple of years ago, that Dan was very kind both to me, & more importantly, Memorex's widow. So read what you will into that closing line, but know that when chips were down & it was a suicide of a member of our own little community, Dan responded to us when we needed kindness the most. I won't forget it. Maybe Dan's occasional ubersnark/meanness is necessary to balance out his sometimes deep niceness.

PAIN: It's not your fault, that your ex killed himself. I understand fully how much weight this feels like, & how many times you've put yourself through the mistaken belief that you could've changed things somehow. I have too. IDK if you're the type of person who can have a little NSA fun before full-on dating, but maybe if you are, you should consider that for now while you continue to work through your grief. Since I've seen a similar healing process happen w/ Memorex's widow, I can tell you that it takes time, & you'll know it, when that grief isn't as heavy.

I agree with Dan's thinking: there is always pain somewhere in relationships. If that fear is still the first thing on your mind, PAIN, it might be too soon to date.

Also? I still miss you, Memorex...
48
Hopefully your therapist has already been helping you realize this, PAIN, but it's worth saying again:

It's understandable that you're feeling anxious around dating. No, it probably won't last forever, if you don't want it to and you keep working on it. As Dan said in the more helpful part of his response, you have to get yourself used to the idea that dating, relationships, and pretty much any human interaction will involve some degree of pain at times, and that this doesn't have to be the end of the world. So your dating interactions initially should be less about finding another partner and more about re-training yourself to recognize and accept this inevitable pain. Most people - nearly all people - do not kill themselves when their partner breaks up with them or otherwise hurts them, and healthy people don't react destructively when a relationship ends. Your goal is to get healthier so you can date healthy people.

Take small steps. Try turning someone down for coffee and noticing that they don't implode. Try telling a potential partner you're not interested in more than one date, or a relationship at all, and notice that you don't destroy them. If that seems like too much, pay attention to how trusted friends react when you decline an invitation to do something. When you're ready, date someone for a week or two and then let them go. And tell your dating partners (hopefully you already are) that you're not ready for more than casual dating. Then let yourself reject and be rejected by people, and pay attention to the fact that the world doesn't end each time (and if someone does react badly, remember that it's likely to be about them, not you, and that the stakes are small - it's just coffee, it's just a couple dates, etc).

Keep the stakes low in the beginning. Get better at recognizing when someone handles rejection gracefully, and get better at handling it gracefully yourself. Allow yourself to feel sympathy for other people's pain without falling to pieces yourself. It's going to take practice, and you're going to have to build up some callouses, slowly (you don't want to overdo it). But if you don't overload yourself - if you keep the stakes low and you stay present with yourself and how you're feeling, if you notice that the world isn't ending - you will gradually find yourself able to breathe again. Pain can't be avoided, but suffering can. Teach yourself not to suffer.
49
I'm legitimately puzzled by what appear to me to be strange over-reactions to the last line. "Unnecessary" I'll buy, but it's unnecessary in large part because it's expressing what should be a relatively obvious sentiment. Generally speaking, losing a child to suicide ranks higher on the pain scale than losing a recent Ex to suicide.

Doesn't it? What am I missing?
50
Another thing: if your ex was threatening suicide if you broke up, he was abusing you and probably doing other abusive things as well. Yes, he was hurting (and yes, his family and friends are probably still hurting), but he was also hurting *you*. Some of your skittishness about dating may be not just about the fear of hurting someone else but also about the fear of being hurt yourself, again. Don't overlook that.
51
@ 49: Because it reads like this:

Q: Hey, I've been through a painful experience and would like some helpful advice on how to get better.

A: That's too bad, but other people have it worse than you.

Dismissing or minimizing someone's experience is a terrible way of dealing with it, because it doesn't change the truth of their experience. Saying "I shouldn't feel this way" doesn't help, because you DO feel that way. It actually makes it worse, because then you feel bad for feeling bad.

She probably knows better than Dan how her ex's family is feeling. Pointing that out to her isn't helpful.
52
My father committed suicide and it happened to be a few months after my mother left him. On the night he shot himself I was supposed to be staying at his house. That same night he'd gone to a school theater event my brother was in and like a middle school kid he was too cool to say hi that night. All three of us used those facts to take responsibility for his suicide. That was fifteen years ago.



My mom, my brother, and me all know that his suicide was not our fault and ALL of us struggle with the same thing you are describing in relationship. Suicide is one of the most difficult things to heal from, whether your a girlfriend, ex-wife or family member. It takes a long time. And while I agree with what Dan said, you absolutely must know that being in relationship will hurt others, that's the nature of relationship, I think you can also bring a whole lot of compassion to yourself when those feelings come up. They are powerful and intense. For me they are usually a sign I've got more grieving to do. Three years may seem like a long time, but it's been fifteen years for me. Although I'm quite good at saying difficult things in relationship, I still feel a rise of panic that when I say it my partner might die. It's just what we suicide survivors get to feel. And learn to know it when it arrises and move forward anyway. You can do it! But not with out a whole lot of tender compassion.
53
I actually think Dan's last line is spot on, and possibly the best advice in the entire response. Part of what we do as human beings is we think of ourselves as the center of things. This means that boyfriend killing himself = girlfriend tragedy/girlfriend is potentially damaging to other people. Now, of course it's a tragedy to have an ex-boyfriend kill himself and it's VERY tough to get over the fears and beliefs that come up when you feel that you are at fault. It's also not something you can get over until you firmly believe that you didn't do it, and that it's not about you. As tough as it is to transition back into dating, PAIN needs to stop seeing herself as someone that causes things to happen in other people, and she needs to stop identifying as someone whose boyfriend committed suicide when she broke up with him so that she can identify as someone who lost someone, like the other people in his life. I thought the slap-across-the-face ending was perfect, and much kinder to her than going along with the story she's telling herself.
54
Fifteen years ago my father committed suicide after my mother separated from him. She blamed herself. I unconsciously blamed myself because I was supposed to be staying with him that night and refused. My brother blamed himself because he didn't say hi to my dad at a school function that night.

All three of us STILL struggle in relationship with the feelings you described. I'm quite good, years later, at stating things that I worry might hurt my partner, but every time I do, there is panic in my chest that my partner will drop dead after I say it. My mother feels the same way.
While it is absolutely true that you can't be in relationship with out hurting another, you need to give yourself huge doses of patience and compassion. Because that panic feeling might never go away. It's lessened but it's not gone. I just know I have to be gentle with myself and communicate a whole lot with my partner when I have something difficult to say. Be patient and gentle. No one knows who's pain is larger when it comes to suicide, that I know. I'm sorry for your loss.
55
Chase, I just don't see that.
Dan acknowledged her grief, but said
" he felt", as in how Dan felt.. A subjective response.. Sadder for the boy and his family. Putting this young woman's pain in perspective, maybe, but not saying " other people have it worse than you. "
Whatever these particular words set off in the LW, she clearly asked Dan to give his take on her story.
Thank you chicago girl.
56
This is really harsh and mean. You might want to be a little more comforting to someone who is experiencing emotional pain, rather than try the tough love approach. (that really does not work).


57
This is really harsh and mean. You might want to be a little more comforting to someone who is experiencing emotional pain, rather than try the tough love approach. (that really does not work).





58
Nmarie. Thank you for sharing your story. I hope you three can one day really let your dad's action be his action.
Suicide sure leaves a twisted wreak behind.
59
I have a sibling whom I basically haven't spoken to in 20 years. If they were to suicide, I'm quite sure their partner of 6 months would feel a hell of a lot worse about it than I. That would have been true at the start of the 20 years, too.

The last sentence of Dan's advice isn't just rude, it's fantasy on his part.

60
Someone said she was reading a book on recovering from toxic relationships. Which one was it? I have written three books on something called borderline personality disorder, which is something this ex-partner may have had. Suicide threats upon losing relationships are common. And about 1 out of every 10 people with BPD does kill themselves. I agree; there is nothing she could have done. My book is called Stop Walking on Eggshells.
61
Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.
62
Old crow, no more fantasy than you projecting your life experience onto this LWs story. Difference is, the LW asked Dan and not you, to share his perceptions, feelings, projections.
63
@ 55: She didn't ask Dan how he felt about it. She asked him for help dealing with her feelings, not his. And yes, he did indeed say that other people have it worse - why else feel more sorry for them than for her? It may have been true, but it was about as unnecessary as telling people at a funeral, "hey, at least the deceased didn't die of ebola when they were six years old." Maybe true, but tone-deaf nonetheless.

In addition, it undermines his bigger (and better) point to basically say, "You shouldn't worry so much about how other people are feeling. Also, stop feeling sorry for yourself, you should be feeling more sorry for your ex and his family."
64
Chase;
" I would really appreciate a response from you", is how the LW worded it. To me, that would include Dan giving a full response. Feelings included.
He acknowledged her pain. He felt sorrier for the boy and his family. They are Dans feelings. They are valid. It's not up to others to tell Dan he should have " felt" another way.
65
She should accept that her ex did this to hurt her, that he was an asshole and good riddance. Not all suicides are bad. ie Hitler
66
1) Anyone who says that people who kill themselves are 'selfish' have their heads up their asses. People who kill themselves do so because they are in extreme mental distress. They don't do it for kicks. They do it because all other options seem worse *to them*. Maybe not *to you* but you can *never* truly be inside someone else's head.



2) @LW: One step at a time, one date at a time is the way to go. You need to gradually desensitize yourself. You've been out of the pool for a while. Just dip a toe in and see how it feels. And as many others have mentioned, you did *not* cause this person to die. They made a choice. Living the rest of your life imaging 'whatifihad?' is not productive. We can't change the past - only the future. I hope you have a joyous one!
67
@Ophian: At the moment he ended his life he became a supremely selfish asshole that deserves no more consideration than any other abuser.

I disagree. No one is obligated to live out a painful, miserable life just to keep others happy, unless maybe if they have kids. If the ex wanted to die, that's his choice.

That said, I certainly don't feel sorry for the ex now that he's completely free of pain.
68
I have to agree with the other posters. The last line was both needlessly cruel and doesn't make any sense. The LW is in pain. Her pain doesn't count for less because she didn't know him long enough, or didn't share DNA with him, or chose to end an unhealthy and abusive relationship.

And vennominon has a point, we don't know what relationship he had with his family or how they're own actions may have contributed to his suicide. Saying that a pain we don't even know they feel is more important than the LW's pain is a dick move.
69
Haven't read all the comments yet (I'll get to it) but I wanted to chime in, though I rarely post here.

So much sympathy for you here. When I was 15, I broke up with a boyfriend (who was 19, which is a bit of a mess in itself) and he drove his bike off a cliff. Left notes blaming me. His parents and sister have continued to blame me ever since. It took ten years of letting them verbally beat me up on the anniversary until some voice in my head finally said, You know, you don't have to go see them.

At 19, my very next boyfriend mentioned casually that if he didn't find a job soon, he'd kill himself. Immediate trigger for me. I clung to him for several months after that, until he disappeared and I never saw him again. (11 years later I have no idea if he's alive or dead, and sometimes I still worry.) At 21, I briefly dated a guy (like three times) who then stalked me and threatened suicide every time I told him I didn't want to be with him. After that I decided I was sick of hurting people, and have mostly had FWBs and casual sex ever since. At 30, I'm only just now becoming ready to have one.

You don't get over it. You heal, you process the grief and guilt, and you learn to live with the scars it leaves. You get to a place where you only think, "I wish I'd..." once in a while instead of all the time. But you don't ever quite get over it. At least I haven't.

But you're doing the right things. You're taking time for yourself, and you're getting therapy. While I agree with Dan that all relationships come with pain, I don't think it's necessarily a bad idea to take some time away from them if you feel like you need to - not because you're to blame for your ex's choice, but because without taking time to work through things it's often easy to repeat patterns. That's true for a lot of things, but I think it's especially true of relationships. Just as there are some people who are damaged beyond repair, there are also some people who are attracted to damaged people. (I don't know if that applies to you, but it sure as hell applies to me.) It took me until the third suicidal guy to realise that something in me was seeking out tortured souls, probably because I grew up with a depressed, suicidal mother and caretaking was the only thing I knew. I needed the time away from relationships to figure that out. Even if your ex was a one-off and all your other relationships have been healthy, taking time to yourself to process isn't a bad thing.

When you're ready for another relationship, you'll know. And when you are, at least at the beginning, look for partners who are generally happy people. They don't have to be rays of sunshine all the time, but look for someone who enjoys and appreciates life more often than not. More to the point, look for someone with the resilience to get through bad situations without breaking.

Good luck. I truly wish you all the best.
70
sean @67, "No one is obligated to live out a painful, miserable life just to keep others happy..."

I totally agree. I believe that to be truly in possession of one's self and life requires having say-so over one's death. However, how one exercises the prerogative makes a hell of a difference.

From what the LW says, this guy did it wrong. At best he did not consider others, at worst he aimed it at others.

[And I know that severe pain often precludes consideration for others, but that explains without excusing.]
71
@66 You're making a sweeping generalization. Some people do commit suicide to hurt the survivors. The worst kind go for the murder/suicide.
72
@71 Clearly the person they hate the most is themselves. Otherwise they would have just committed murder.

Thus, my statement stands. They are in extreme mental distress and can't see any other way out.
73
My ex committed suicide also, though my story is a bit longer. All I'll say is that there were pretty clear signs to me during our relationship that she was unstable, and I'll admit I wasn't completely surprised when she did kill herself. Long story short is that, for whatever reason, some people kill themselves for assorted reasons, and most (from what I can tell) do it as function of deep rooted mental health issues. Without intended to say anything about or be insulting about mental illness in general, I have little doubt your relationship with him (and mine with her) was a good thing in their life.





However, as Dan said, if you both aren't happy (and your weren't or you wouldn't have broken up) then you aren't responsible for how he handles his life. It's not like you took his money, car, ruined his family life, and whatever things I can imagine someone might do to make another life more difficult. He had emotional issues (as my ex did), and no matter how much I tried when I was with her, the issues didn't improve. She refused help from all angles, and basically blamed everyone else for her problems.





At a basic level, suicide or not, this is complete BS. Everyone has at least some responsibility to manage their life and their health and emotional well being. Depending on someone else to "make you complete" is something that is a complete disaster in relationships.





Anyway, moving forward it's was helpful for me to be selfish a little bit more than I might have otherwise liked to be. It was actually useful to look at people I dated mechanically (well, as much as I could), and figure out where things where going. I had the same issues of not wanting to get serious with anyone for years, partly for not wanting to hurt them and partly for not wanting to deal with a similar situation in the future.





I still have personal issues around that whole relationship and ordeal, but ultimately she didn't want to be in this world any more, and one can't change that. But it's completely whacked to think everyone you ever meet or fall for is going to be suicidal if you aren't perfect for them.





Yea, breaking up sucks hairy donkey balls. Relationships can be painful. And they should be broken up when they don't work for you sooner than later. But that's the deal. Lovers and people you care about can be completely selfish jerks, as can everyone else.





But the alternative is to live in a cave and never see or talk to anyone. And I couldn't do that. I'm very social. Weary and bit more cautious than I used to be, but moving forward.





Fwiw, it's been 8 years since we broke up, and 2 since she committed suicide, and I've since married my girlfriend of the last 6 years. I'll admit I still think and have issues with how that went down with my ex, but I deal with it with friends, and keep it out of my current relationship as much as possible. I wouldn't expect any lover to really want to help you deal with emotional issues around an ex (except maybe for things they did that pissed you off - but even that's silly).





Move on, you won't forget completely, but it will get better. Being social, having friends, and allowing people into your life cautiously will make it better.





Good luck.
74
Also, too, again: If children got raped at Denny's as often as they get raped at church... it would be illegal to take your children to Denny's.



No doubt.



So Danny, just how many children get raped at church?
75
@69 Amazing post. Thank you.

I thought Dan's response was awesome until the callous part.
76
Yes. Wtf is up with the last sentence? How is it even relevant?
77
I think Dan worded that last comment in a way that doesn't sound so great. But the way I see it is like this:





I feel more sorry for the guy and his family too because this woman has a lot more going for her. She's much more emotionally healthy: she got help for herself, she's growing, and she recognizes things that are holding her back. She wants to heal. She wrote Dan for advice, and that's healthy. Normal.





This guy was a wreck. An abuser, in a sense (and inside, hurting very badly for years and years--lots of demons in there). If it wasn't her, it would have been someone or something else that kicked in the suicidal tendencies he already had. He didn't get sick while he was with her. He was already sick (seriously in pain emotionally and mentally).





And yeah, I feel sorry for him. And his family. It's almost guaranteed they've got some serious issues too. Sure, their child is an adult and responsible for himself, but people don't get messed up in a vacuum.





Best of luck, PAIN. And do see if you can make sure you're on solid footing before you start dating. We only attract people who are at about the same place as we are, and if we don't get ourselves healthy first, we won't recognize the issues in people like this guy who was in such rough shape from the minute you met him. But what he did wasn't your fault at all; the only responsibility you had here (with the outcome) was that you chose to be with him. His misery was already there.
78
And now that I've read a lot of comments speculating on what Dan meant by it: What is wrong with you people? She should get over herself because others have it worse? Why not tack that on to every single letter, then? He could truthfully say THAT to anyone. But again, why? How is it relevant when she never claimed to be the saddest of them all? Nor is there even a whiff of that. I wish Dan would speak for himself.
.
79
Dear Letterwriter,



You are not the mistakes you made, all you have to do is be a person who learns and not a man who makes excuses. While the attempts of idiot men to console you may appear like good advice or even sound noble, it's much more likely that you'll be able to heal and recover if you let go of the male pack mentality



idiot males let their pride and ego destroy themselves and those around them, GBTQ males are just as susceptible to their males disease as heterosexuals.



Is it possible that the only thing you might need to learn from this experience, is to speak out when the idiot male enforces his dominance, only allows you to believe the world is as he frames it, and through fear and pack mentality you felt you could not disagree with their behavior ?



Men justify atrocities because they believe in the Lie that it's just the way the world is, that there is nothing that can be done, and that to admit the truth is equal to bringing about a mass suicide of the entire group or community



and it's complete and utter bullshit, Lies are not a necessary element in this world, and once you understand that it will become clear to you that pain is not required nor unavoidable in a loving and caring relationship



a lot of women spend a significant portion of their lives empathizing will others in order to understand how they feel, what it would feel like to be them, and that is not a bad trait, the disease of maleness begins with denial, as it is convenient, and then it snowballs and for them lies become necessary, but only because they cannot find the courage to exist in a truthful world where they cannot shirk responsibility



you can produce more empathy, warmth, understanding and truthfulness from a heartless, souless algorithm than you can squeeze out of all the males put together in most communities
80
@64: The question she wanted a response to was, "will this last forever?", not "what are your feelings about this, no matter how rude or irrelevant?"

And no one is telling Dan how to feel. All the posters in this thread objecting to the last line (all the way from #1 to #78) are saying he could've kept those feelings to himself or at least expressed them constructively, instead of being unnecessarily cruel.
81
I'm currently in a relationship with a person who lost his ex to suicide. His wasn't the same situation, but right from the start, many of his reactions towards me didn't make sense (I did that whole he's just not that into you routine), but I stayed because I loved him (and am a bit of a masochist), but more importantly, ultimately because I could sense he was reluctant to commit to me for reasons that didn't have much to do with me. His whole attitude changed when he opened up about this, and we've been happy and doubt-free ever since. I think, in part, he was (subconsciously) waiting to see if I was a person who is independent enough and strong enough to move on if deeper feelings get involved and we end up breaking up. For my part, I suddenly understood it all, and although it still breaks my heart when I think something like that happened to the man I love, I have a lot more patience and can now clearly see his reactions for what they are.



I don't think his behavior was unreasonable, or even unhealthy. We are all damaged in some way, and I don't think we can ever hope to erase our deepest shortcomings, just learn how to best cope with them. I'm aware that this is not the same thing, but for me it's jealousy. And every time I get jealous, I try to have a little talk with myself and make myself be less of a dick than the last time. If you need to be careful, be careful. But just before you run away again, and you know you're running out of this fear, try and stay a bit longer. Then a bit longer after that. And I think, in time, you'll find that most people are resilient and won't bail on you again, and you'll start to relax.
82
Life can be very cruel, sometimes it takes all the courage people have just to get out of bed in the morning. Your ex didn't have enough courage that one day, perhaps if he had been able to stop his thoughts and memories and feelings long enough to sleep then the next day he might have had enough courage to go on. It was very shitty of him to lay that responsibility on you. You wouldn't have been able to stop his suicide if you had stayed, you couldn't have given him the courage to go on living. Only he could have done that for himself.

Death is always difficult to deal with, no matter the manner or circumstances. My best friend killed himself when we were in high school, and til this day I'm mad at him for not calling me when he was in despair, and mad at myself for not seeing his despair. My oldest brother died just a couple of months before they released the meds that have made AIDS no longer a death sentence, and I spent years angry at everybody for not finding it earlier, and most angry at myself for not having spent every minute of the day with him, wasted all that time before he got sick on nothing super important. Then there was my mom and my grandmother and, and, and. Overwhelming anger, endless regrets, unending grief. I do not deal well with death, as you can see. People talk about the last stage, acceptance. Some of us never get to acceptance, because we don't want to let go. But eventually, eventually time does do its job; the grief and regrets don't go away, but you can live and function with it. Sometimes a sound, a smell, the way the light glows in the early spring brings back sharp memories, sometimes you have dreams where they are alive still, and you cry when you wake. Sometimes you wish the dream could go on forever. But most of the time you can laugh and see the beauty of things and feel the joy and be glad you're alive.

Give yourself compassion and patience. It wasn't your fault. You will be happy again, and you'll meet people you can trust that will not put the burden of their inability to cope with life on you. Keep only the people who add to your life. Leave the people who make you or your life worse.

Take good care of yourself. Courage.


83
oh I forgot how sloggers prefer to have discussions; don't mention anything directly so that you'll never have to be responsible for any opinion you might have stated in the discussion once it becomes a discussion that took place in the past.



So some readers might not understand the concept of desired pain and the exchanges of desired pain that is consented to, as that type of pain (desired and consented) is part of a healthy relationships and power exchanges



but it wouldn't be a slog article without intentionally phrasing questions in a way that uses subtlety to target non-BDSM readers that make the mistake of chiming in



relationships do not have to include undesired pain, you should never inflict undesired pain, and while it may be done inadvertently, when you genuinely care about the person you are in a relationship with and are sorry for inadvertently inflicting pain, most people don't become stuck in that pain



sorry means your are willing to change the behavior



if the letter writer is sorry, than there shouldn't be a problem, and if it becomes a problem, the root of it my stem from the people you surround yourself with, do they refer to a deleted web page as suicide, while knowing you would understand it to mean the end of physical life of the body a person dwells in? Do you know of your misunderstanding yet choose to berate and belittle you after you took their words for the meaning they intended for you?



If "friends" intend to miscommunicate, it's an action that can be parsed down to lying piece of shit manipulator, not recognizing that has a tendency to become confused enough to think that any form of suicide is an acceptable action to take



and that's sad, I think the letterwriter will do fine if they do not intentionally miscommunicate
84
@66 Some people beat their wives and blame it on their "extreme mental distress." As it turns out, focusing only on your own feelings (extreme mental distress or otherwise) is textbook selfishness. If you don't consider how your actions affect others and adjust your behavior accordingly, you're selfish.
85
Hey Everyone, this is the original letter writer,



Your responses are all lovely and thought-provoking. It meant a lot for me to read some of your comments and similar experiences. My heart goes out to others who have endured similar experiences.



I didn't write to Dan Savage to get a therapist's response, I wrote to Dan Savage to get a Dan Savage response. Perhaps I unconsciously wanted a kick in the butt. Yeah, the last sentence seems a little brusque, but I am not offended because I think the content in the rest of the reply is right on. He also doesn't know the whole story. For sure, the family is going to feel the long-time loss with every passing Christmas and holiday, etc and that thought alone has compounded my guilt about causing not only suffering for my ex, but now his whole family for the rest of their lives. However, I know that everyone is ultimately responsible for their own life. Letting go of guilt about not having been able to prevent it is no easy task. And this includes not just me, but for everyone else that was around him during this time who are, no doubt, still agonizing about what they could have done. What makes this a little different (and perhaps more complex, but not necessarily harder) is that our breakup catalyzed his mental decline. He pleaded with me, begged me to take him back. I remained solid so that I could maintain my decision to leave. He had a way of being very persuasive and I had to be almost cold to disengage. In retrospect, I wish I had seen the signs. But, Dan, you are right.... I am not omniscient and I couldn't have stayed in a hostage situation even if I had known that's what he would've done. His other friends and family may have regrets they didn't see it coming, but at least they don't carry the weight of feeling (initially) directly responsible for it. He hung himself in the foyer of the house from the second floor railing a few centimeters from the front door. He'd locked all of the doors to the house, probably knowing that I would discover him because I'm the only other person who had a key to get in. It felt directed towards me....at least that's how I initially experienced it. Over time, I've realized that there may not have been contempt directed towards me in his actions. I will never really know as he didn't leave a note. Just a bunch of questions.



I will say, however, that trauma lives in the body - even when you rationally, intellectually know a feeling doesn't make sense, if your body still believes it does, problems arise. This is perhaps why I get an automatic body response (heart palpitations, etc) whenever I think about having to break up with someone. Overtime I know this will subside - it just points to the fact that I have a little more work to do.



I experienced his death as both an act of aggression (towards himself and me) and an act of desperation. I think the single most important thing to know is that, in the wake of a suicide, there are many mixed emotions and confounding facts. I believe he was all of these things: (selfish, angry, impulsive, confused, pained, hurt, aggressive)..... and as a result I feel: (tenderness, hatred, sadness, euphoria, guilt, defensiveness, anger, compassion, regret, and occasionally forgiveness etc). To be human requires our ability to be able to integrate all of these conflicting things and hold it in complexity, rather than trying to label something as one thing or another for the sake of simplicity.



I believe suicide is ultimately selfish - it's a statement that my pain now is more important than the pain I will inflict on all of my friends, family, etc for the rest of their lives if I carry this out. However, this doesn't mean I can't simultaneously hold compassion for someone who loses perspective and finds their pain so unbearable in the moment, that it seems to be the only way out.



I think we should begin conceptualizing suicide within the framework of a communitarian perspective, rather than an individualistic one. Yes, ultimately we all have a right to do what we want with our own body - but this is based on the idea that we are not all connected. When someone commits suicide, it creates a ripple effect. Studies have shown that every time someone dies by suicide, there is a rise in suicide within that person's own family and also within their direct & indirect community. Anyone who is touched by it, integrates that experience into their unconscious. Suicide should not be considered a viable way out. We owe it to our family, friends and loved ones to keep trying.



This could easily lead into a rant about the state of our mental health care... but instead I will leave you with a link to this interview with Jennifer Michael Hecht that Krista Tippet did on her podcast "On Being": Here is what it is about:



" Suicide, and Hope for Our Future Selves



"Your staying alive means so much more than you really know or that anyone is aware of at this moment."



Philosopher, historian, and poet Jennifer Michael Hecht has traced how Western civilization has at times demonized those who commit suicide, at times celebrated it as a moral freedom. She proposes a reframed cultural conversation, based not on morality or rights but on our essential need for each other."



http://www.onbeing.org/program/jennifer-…



Thanks everyone for the dialogue and thanks, Dan, for your response.

I honestly thought that my letter would go into the ether.



LW


86
Because a bunch of you have unregistered comments turned off, you might not see that the original letter writer has responded @85:

"Hey Everyone, this is the original letter writer,

Your responses are all lovely and thought-provoking. It meant a lot for me to read some of your comments and similar experiences. My heart goes out to others who have endured similar experiences.

I didn't write to Dan Savage to get a therapist's response, I wrote to Dan Savage to get a Dan Savage response. Perhaps I unconsciously wanted a kick in the butt. Yeah, the last sentence seems a little brusque, but I am not offended because I think the content in the rest of the reply is right on. He also doesn't know the whole story. For sure, the family is going to feel the long-time loss with every passing Christmas and holiday, etc and that thought alone has compounded my guilt about causing not only suffering for my ex, but now his whole family for the rest of their lives. However, I know that everyone is ultimately responsible for their own life. Letting go of guilt about not having been able to prevent it is no easy task. And this includes not just me, but for everyone else that was around him during this time who are, no doubt, still agonizing about what they could have done. What makes this a little different (and perhaps more complex, but not necessarily harder) is that our breakup catalyzed his mental decline. He pleaded with me, begged me to take him back. I remained solid so that I could maintain my decision to leave. He had a way of being very persuasive and I had to be almost cold to disengage. In retrospect, I wish I had seen the signs. But, Dan, you are right.... I am not omniscient and I couldn't have stayed in a hostage situation even if I had known that's what he would've done. His other friends and family may have regrets they didn't see it coming, but at least they don't carry the weight of feeling (initially) directly responsible for it. He hung himself in the foyer of the house from the second floor railing a few centimeters from the front door. He'd locked all of the doors to the house, probably knowing that I would discover him because I'm the only other person who had a key to get in. It felt directed towards me....at least that's how I initially experienced it. Over time, I've realized that there may not have been contempt directed towards me in his actions. I will never really know as he didn't leave a note. Just a bunch of questions.

I will say, however, that trauma lives in the body - even when you rationally, intellectually know a feeling doesn't make sense, if your body still believes it does, problems arise. This is perhaps why I get an automatic body response (heart palpitations, etc) whenever I think about having to break up with someone. Overtime I know this will subside - it just points to the fact that I have a little more work to do.

I experienced his death as both an act of aggression (towards himself and me) and an act of desperation. I think the single most important thing to know is that, in the wake of a suicide, there are many mixed emotions and confounding facts. I believe he was all of these things: (selfish, angry, impulsive, confused, pained, hurt, aggressive)..... and as a result I feel: (tenderness, hatred, sadness, euphoria, guilt, defensiveness, anger, compassion, regret, and occasionally forgiveness etc). To be human requires our ability to be able to integrate all of these conflicting things and hold it in complexity, rather than trying to label something as one thing or another for the sake of simplicity.

I believe suicide is ultimately selfish - it's a statement that my pain now is more important than the pain I will inflict on all of my friends, family, etc for the rest of their lives if I carry this out. However, this doesn't mean I can't simultaneously hold compassion for someone who loses perspective and finds their pain so unbearable in the moment, that it seems to be the only way out.

I think we should begin conceptualizing suicide within the framework of a communitarian perspective, rather than an individualistic one. Yes, ultimately we all have a right to do what we want with our own body - but this is based on the idea that we are not all connected. When someone commits suicide, it creates a ripple effect. Studies have shown that every time someone dies by suicide, there is a rise in suicide within that person's own family and also within their direct & indirect community. Anyone who is touched by it, integrates that experience into their unconscious. Suicide should not be considered a viable way out. We owe it to our family, friends and loved ones to keep trying.

This could easily lead into a rant about the state of our mental health care... but instead I will leave you with a link to this interview with Jennifer Michael Hecht that Krista Tippet did on her podcast "On Being": Here is what it is about:

" Suicide, and Hope for Our Future Selves

"Your staying alive means so much more than you really know or that anyone is aware of at this moment."

Philosopher, historian, and poet Jennifer Michael Hecht has traced how Western civilization has at times demonized those who commit suicide, at times celebrated it as a moral freedom. She proposes a reframed cultural conversation, based not on morality or rights but on our essential need for each other."

http://www.onbeing.org/program/jennifer-

Thanks everyone for the dialogue and thanks, Dan, for your response.

I honestly thought that my letter would go into the ether.

LW"
87
Thanks for writing back, LW, and for letting us know that you found Dan's response helpful, and maybe even a good kick in the butt. He is definitely good at his job. Wishing you a peaceful way forward...
88
@85

I think the question of how to deal with your avoidance of people whom you feel as too dependent has not received enough focus.

I don't know much about attachment theory, besides this. You may know more already.

One way forward is to consider that your feeling of these people you broke up with as too dependent, was indeed accurate, and not a falsehood coming from the pain of your ex-bf's suicide. Then you having a relationship with them would have been a bad idea. If you tried to date a handful of people, it may well have happened that all of them were too dependent, and your gut instinct did a good job in preventing such relationships to happen. It's one of the consequences of trauma : it may make someone very good at recognizing the warning signs of more of the same. So no need to feel guilt over them.

Another way is to decide that those people you broke up with were not too dependent in the absolute sense, but were still too dependent for you, as in your current state. A good relationship is not one where both partners are perfect in the absolute, but where they suit each other.

In other terms, don't focus on mourning the relationships that you abort because you feel unease, and keep looking for the relationship where you won't feel any unease. You've changed, what you need now is not what you needed then. It's okay. Accept that you've changed, accept that you're less easily contented in a budding relationship, cut yourself some slack and don't yearn for old you. You might change back into old you and you might as well not.

Some people have an avoidant attachment style : maybe start looking for them. Maybe start thinking of yourself as having an avoidant style.

One of my friends is avoidant in attachment, always has been. He knows it, and warns potential interests of it when he thinks things are getting too close for comfort for him. That didn't prevent him from having significant relationships including three marriages, though he seems best at ease in friends with benefits settings.

Instead of focusing on the idea of obtaining a deeply satisfying romantic relationship, and be unhappy with anything less, give a try to less intense forms, I'd say less threatening forms of relationships instead, and see if that's working for you.

Don't go for fulfilling yet, just focus on healthy. It might work out better than you think now.

And as an end note, remember that you don't have to be in a relationship to be a complete human being. If you feel like your ex-boyfriend's suicide has derailed your life plans, as in married at such age and kids at such age, maybe it's for the best it did. I followed my life's plan and I was not choosy enough, and now I've come to regret it. Let's say that in my current family/money situation and age, I can't even be on the market for a full-time relationship, so fulfilling is unlikely to happen ever, though I still have hope for healthy FWBs being in the attainable range. I might be wrong..

There's not someone for everyone. But keeping at trying in the only way forward.
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@ vennominon

You did what you had to do, and I'm happy that you didn't succeed in your suicide attempt.

I join you in having a hard time over Dan's concern for the siblings and parents of the deceased. Not all families are nice places to grow up in.

As for suicided people being worthy of being pitied or not, I think that's nobody's business to judge.

@seandr "No one is obligated to live out a painful, miserable life just to keep others happy, unless maybe if they have kids."

Indeed.
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Again, it is nice to see Horses for Courses rewarded.

I thank LW for returning such a thoughtful reply, and understand while disagreeing with the position she takes at the end. Shunning and shaming suicide, especially at a time when Mr Savage and others are trying to celebrate abortion, feels rather off.
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What is Horses for Courses?
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@85, try EFT, Emotional Freeing Technique, also known as tapping. In just one session, it has an amazing ability to help your body release emotional trauma and stop responding physically to things that your brain has begun to cope with. Good luck!
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@85, thanks for weighing in; your post gave a lot of needed context to the discussion. I will say, however, that I think you're wrong about suicide being a selfish act. It can be, certainly, but there is a place, mentally, where suicide isn't "a way out" and the person is not placing their pain above the pain of their loved ones. I know because I've been there; it's exceptional good luck that at that time I actually got the help that I needed and it worked, and now I don't have to go through every second of the day trying not to scream. I do remember what it was like, though. When it came down to the wire, I was miserable because of the pain I knew it would cause my loved ones. I'd thought and thought and thought about suicide constantly for well over a year, every day putting it off and seeing if I could just hold on a little longer; sometimes I came close but there was always something I could hang onto to keep me in this world - often thinking about my loved ones. When I got to the end of my rope, though, I was just plain done. This time there was no agonizing over it; it was like the decision was already made. At that time, I wasn't being selfish - it was over and that was that; I was already gone. Obviously, I'm grateful every day for the doctor who helped me and the existence of lithium, but at the time, as things were, I'd simply reached the end.

Okay, that's enough of the oversharing. This is a topic, obviously, that I feel strongly about. That being said, it doesn't sound like your ex was necessarily that kind of suicide. It sounds like he may have been one of the selfish ones, and he was clearly very emotionally abusive.
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Horses for Courses - For example, Rags to Riches was entered in the Belmont in 2007 because her father and her half-brother had both won the race. Or, in the opposite direction, Preakness winner Rachel Alexandra skipped the Breeder's Cup in 2009 because in was run on a synthetic track instead of natural dirt. Here the LW knew what course of advice she wanted, and selected the appropriate horse - Mr Savage - to get it.

I could make a passing reference to a stud, but I won't.
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@85, letterwriter: I don't know if you'll see this, but if you do, I hope it will be of help.





I've been in a couple of relationships where the other person's wellbeing was hung on my shoulders, and it is a terrifying, terrible burden. Both of them handled the break-up in ways that pretty closely resembled your ex's. Thankfully, neither of them went as far as he did, though one of them came close to it after a later major break-up. (Yes, a pattern emerges.)





I have also been in relationships where the other party, and the relationship, was what lifted me, held me up, to an extent where I fell pretty far apart on the break-up point.





So it's true that someone can make a big difference, being there and not being there. But that can't happen, in this drastic kind of way, if you're well enough in yourself, or at least well enough in yourself to carry your own baggage.





And while there really should be an entry-level requirement to get involved with someone else in a way that could make the relationship a make-or-break thing for you, people unfortunately are not taught that, or held to it.





There is a whole subset of romances written and filmed to make us think fixing someone, or being fixed by them, is not just acceptable, but even some kind of romantic pinnacle. It is not. It is a dreadful risk, for everyone involved.





You did not know that you ran that risk, or its badness, going in, and most likely, neither did your ex. That is not your fault, or his fault. But I completely understand not wanting to run that risk again, having been burnt. The thing is, that's not such a terrible aversion. Nobody's invulnerable, and no relationship is risk-free for vulnerability, but it is not a bad idea to be aware and averse to the really high-risk cases. Not for you, not for others. And wanting to build resilience in yourself, and look for it in others, is not bad either.





That's all.
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I can stay angry forever, though, so that's not a good headspace for me to go to.