Monday, December 12, 2016

Why Christmas Hurts So Damn Much For Survivors Of Suicide

I hate Christmas. The mall is full of nothing but women and children. All you hear is "I want this.", "Get me this.", "I have to have this."... and then there's the children. And they're all by my store 'cause they stuck the mall Santa right outside ringing his stupid bell. As if you need a bell to notice a 300-pound alcoholic in a red suit. "Ho, ho, ho," all day long. So, nice as can be, I go outside, ask him to shut the hell up. He takes a swing at me. So I lay a hook into his fat belly and he goes down. Beard comes off, all the kids start crying and I'm the bad guy. - Al Bundy, Married with Children

First of all, I don't hate Christmas. There are some great things about the holiday.  I enjoy having two weeks off from work, Jack in the Box's eggnog shakes, watching my daughter's face light up Christmas morning, hearing John McClain say "Yippy Ki Aye Mother F*cker" to Hans Gruber, my wife's prime rib and mashed potatoes, free flowing booze (the good stuff no less) at her office Christmas Party, Zu-Zu's petals, and who doesn't love seeing Scut Farkus get his ass kicked over and over again as A Christmas Story rolls for 24 straight hours.

For me, and many others like me, Christmas hurts.  It isn't the commercialism, the bickering (Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays), the crowds, the lines, the perpetually happy people or the continuously angry, the parties we don't want to go to, every sitcom doing a spin off of A Christmas Carol, or even commercials featuring shallow adults jumping up and down because Santa brought them a luxury SUV.  For us, it is because we lost a loved one to suicide, and now we are faced with a never ending series of events that we will never get to experience with them.

I understand that other people have lost loved ones, and the holidays are rough for them as well.  I lost my mother unexpectedly in July of 2005, and that first Christmas without her was difficult, and   I know several people that have lost children to everything from accidents to cancer, and for them I pray daily, but for those left behind as the result of a suicide, the pain is usually worse.

Maybe our loss hurts so much because of the sudden trauma of it.  There are those among us that saw the signs, or previous attempts, and were not taken by surprise, but for the majority, it was a sucker punch to the gut.  If Peyton had been hit by a drunk, had his body ravaged by cancer, fallen off his bike and hit his head, or walked into a CVS and been shot by some tweaker trying to steal Sudafed, at least I would have an answer or explanation.  As it stands, I, and many others, have no reason, no explanation, no nothing.  Instead, we spike our eggnog and replay the situation over and over again in our heads.  We sneak off to the bedroom and cry into our pillows.  We watch It's A Wonderful Life and wish our guardian angel would give us a do over.

Many of us survivors of suicide want to skip Christmas all together, but alas, many of us can't. We have other children, family, and other obligations that will not allow us to just walk away.  We are forced to get out ornaments or stockings with our loved ones names,  We shuffle through Christmas cards and pictures with their smiling faces that hid a pain we can't even begin to fathom.  We see a gift at the mall that would be perfect if they were still with us.  We force ourselves to watch Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer with one child and imagine what it would be like to have our loved one sit next to us in wide eyed wonder one more time.  We look out the window  Christmas morning and see the neighbor's kid in their pajamas and robe riding their new bike only to have to turn away before the painful memories come flooding back and bring us to our knees.  We go to Christmas parties and pretend to be happy only to chug down the free flowing booze in hopes that, at least temporarily, the pain goes away.

So as you travel through your neighborhood looking at the colorful lights, knowing that Shlomo's family doesn't have lights up because they are Jewish, but Cathy's and Hannah's and Cassidy's and Lauren's and Haley's and Issac's and Johnathan's and Grace's and Brandy's and Matthew's and Hunter's and Trayvon's and Jack's and Hunter's and Peyton's families don't have them out because it just hurts too damn much.