Chapter 2: Shock and Disbelief
I hang up deeply shaken after talking to the coroner. In a fog I walk to my car, sit silently at the wheel for a few minutes, and, after some deep breaths, pick up my cell phone and begin to contact the others.
Larry and I were cofounders of a men’s support group called The Lost and Found Men’s Council. For the past fifteen years a small group of us had met every two weeks. We had no specific program except to foster communication and brotherhood. We drummed, lit ritual candles, invoked sacred space, and shared our lives with one another. Each summer we went on a weekend camping retreat that provided a time for creating our own healing practices and a chance for deeper communication. We tapped into the council fire traditions of Native American, African, and other indigenous cultures where for time immemorial men have sat together talking, listening, and sharing with one another. We drew upon ritual, poetry, and myth to support each member’s self-realization, and we continue to do so, now without Larry. The brothers of the Lost and Found all considered him to be the heart and soul of our men’s council.
I call “brother” Bruce and catch him on his way to an appointment with his therapist. He’s driving on the 405 Freeway in Los Angeles, where we all live. My voice quavers as I hear myself speak the words out loud for the first time. Bruce is stunned. He tells me that he has just hung up from leaving a message on Larry’s voice mail. We lose the phone connection in the middle of our conversation. While waiting for him to call back, I call Jeff, who works as a sound editor at Universal Studios. Jeff gets it immediately.
When Bruce finally reaches me again, he says he had to pull over on to the shoulder of the jammed freeway to try to comprehend what I’d just said. He’s in suspicious disbelief. “This is no joke,” I tell him. “Listen to me. Larry has killed himself. It’s not a mistake. I wish it were. I just spoke to a guy at the morgue. His body’s already been identified.”
I don’t phone Cory until I get home. He’s out working late on a DVD project, so I leave a voice mail. Later he too tells me he thought it was just a prank. He’d phoned Larry immediately and left a message asking if it was a joke. There was no reply.
Later I make a call to brother Ken, an acupuncturist, but unable to reach him, I just say it’s an urgent call. At 6:30 a.m. the next morning, Ken phones, thinking I need an emergency appointment. There’s silence on the line after I break it to him.
That evening I begin to scribble my first reactions in my journal. What a messed up thing to do, Larry man. I want to slap some sense into that thick bald head of his. Larry, that was a rotten, cowardly, selfish thing for you to do. You copped out. You’ve had the last word and it is a pitiful useless word! You were not the man I thought you were.
Larry, you let the bastards beat you! I am so sorry. I love you so much, but you betrayed that love. I am so angry at you that I can’t grieve. It was a bad idea, Larry! You ran away from us.
I keep on seeing the lonesome eyes of your beautiful big bear of a dog—Buddy. How could you do this to him? How could you leave him . . . and us like this? I thought you were a man of courage. I was wrong. I am so sad that it has come to this.
We shared such a deep friendship for so many years that your death is a crushing blow. I know that eventually I will miss you terribly. But not yet! I am so furious that I just can’t get my head around what you did. I do not excuse or accept your act. I can’t help but see it as cowardice, my brother, and I will hold you accountable. I want to grieve, but tonight I have no tears.
Shock and Disbelief
– Telling Others
– The First Day
– Beginning the Conversation
• When you found out that your loved one had died, who were the first people you contacted? What were their reactions? What were your reactions to their reactions?
• What happened during those first twenty-four hours? Create a chronology of events noting your changing thoughts, physical sensations, and feelings as you went through that first day. What did you and others do—or not do?
• Begin your first “conversation” with your loved one. The easiest way to do this is to put it in the form of a letter, beginning with his or her name. Then just write. What did you want to say to him immediately after you found out he was gone? What do you want to say right now?
I’m writing to you because it is the only way I can speak to you anymore. It is only twenty-four hours since I learned that you took your own life and I can’t get used to you not being around. I also can’t really accept that you left me the way you did . . .
Returning to the present moment . . .
As you sit comfortably, feel where your body makes contact with the chair or the floor beneath you.
When you breathe in, relax your body and lengthen your spine.
When you breathe out, let your body be held by the support beneath you.
I am grounded and supported in the present.
• Tool Kit for Your Journey to Healing
• Creating Support
• Clinical Theory Behind Unfinished Conversation’s Healing Process
• Resources for Survivors of Suicide
• Resources for Suicide Prevention
• Self-Care Handouts to Support Your Journey