De Profundis

I’ve been meaning to read De Profundis since I read a biography of Oscar Wilde, around 100 years ago. I know Max read De Profundis and liked it. I was disappointed, though. Oscar Wilde managed to perceive a benefit from his suffering: It would bring him humility, and a better appreciation of Christ. That’s where he lost me.

I wanted to find something as dark and bleak as my own grief , something that resonates. Suicide Survivor websites talk about “Journeys,” a word that is now ruined for me.  I am not on a journey. I am already there. It’s the land of the Not Living but Not Dead. There’s an exit but I must not use it.

There is a dark veil that hangs just beyond my peripheral vision but I can see it there. I have to work hard to keep it away. When it sweeps over me, I am lost. It’s just agony. I live in fear of the dark veil and I work hard to refuse its existence.  This grief cannot be borne.  It’s not possible.

I stay up at night because going to bed might produce some moments of unfiltered thinking. I have to wait until I’m nearly unconscious, but I try to get to bed before six AM.  One night not long ago, it was nearly six and for a moment I felt a giddy sense of total freedom from responsibility or repercussions:  it was the epiphany that I didn’t exist any more, so it didn’t matter. The feeling was brief but scary. I can’t even decide if it was a moment of clarity or psychosis.

People who suffer from Cotard’s Syndrome often deny that they exist or believe they are dead. “In the first stage (Germination) patients exhibit depression and hypochondriacal symptoms.” Check. Jules Cotard, who first described the condition,  “described the syndrome as having degrees of severity that range from mild to severe.  Despair and self-loathing characterize a mild state.” Okay then. A mild state is good but not as good as mental health.

I have always felt contemptuous of women who seem to bounce back after losing a child.  I was appalled when Marie Osmond resumed her show in Las Vegas only a week after her son jumped from his 18th floor window.  Gloria Vanderbilt,  Judy Collins, non-celebrity mothers who write about their Journeys and even offer tips on handling intimacy with their husbands.  What propels them to go forward with their lives as if anything matters?

It’s no comfort to know I wont be one of them.


image: The Honeymoon, 2007 © Cig Harvey

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16 Responses to De Profundis

  1. Suspended says:

    Ah Sister, you assume that everyone loves their children with the same depth and devotion as you. This is not the case. Some people positively resent their existence.

    Some people are just better at denial and avoidance.

    I have no idea what these other peoples coping mechanisms are but perhaps they are linked to an already developed distance with their child. Perhaps their careers were always more important, so no real void has been left. There are no warm memories to trip over. Perhaps they’re putting on a brave face and are moments away from insanity. Some Mothers think a handshake is as good as a hug. Be glad you were never one of them.

    Now get your ass to Lourdes! xx

  2. Yanna says:

    So profound thoughts..
    I cannot explain why Poe’s poem Ulalume came in my mind..

    Every time I read this poem, a sweet sadness flies my mind away..

  3. Lynnski says:

    You are not alone. Your words have meaning.

    Thank you for staying and writing.

  4. Sister Wolf says:

    Yanna – I love Poe too.

    Lynnski – xoxoxo

    Suspended – Thank god you are my Life Coach! Lourdes it is.

  5. Sally says:

    Since the birth of my first child 10 months ago today I get your pain so much Sister Wolf. I FEEL for you dear lady. I don’t know what to say to help you. I was going to say that your beloved son would not want you to suffer this way, surely.

  6. EricaE says:

    I used to feel like I had never read anything about grief that was truly honest. Then I found this blog.

  7. Debbie says:

    Ah Sister … I am so, so sorry you suffer. I cannot compare any of my sufferings to yours, not by a long shot. But know that I send you love.

    I remember feeling that something must be terribly wrong with Marie Osmond going back to work immediately. I thought that was so bizarre … I agree with Suspended … some women have strange coping mechanisms and some are not really present for their children … a myriad of reasons that someone could jump back onto the ferris wheel of live after so tragic an event.

    LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to you.


  8. dana says:

    The veil of before and after is so hard to bear. I am heartbroken that this veil surrounds you. I’ve heard one never gets over certain losses, and that actually seems appropriate, or somehow better, than getting over a devastating death. Your clarity and honesty shine, in spite of — because of — it all. xoxoxo

  9. ali says:

    I hate it when people say “okay then” in response to something, be it their own monologue or other.

    The photo is beautiful.

    I think about you almost every day at some point, SO YOU MUST EXIST?

    I don’t want to think about a world in which you do not exist.

    I’ve been reading a lot of Frank Bidart lately. He says a crazy person is a person who does not harbor guilt.

    He says crazy people only like people who don’t contradict them.

    I think this makes you vibrantly alive and pathologically sane. (According to Frank Bidart)

    Sending good thoughts your way.

  10. thriftstorelawyer says:

    Please, please stay with us. That is all.

  11. Sister Wolf says:

    Sally – Yes, that’s true – I’ll try to keep this in mind.

    EricaE – Being honest just comes naturally to me. Everything else is a struggle.

    Debbie – Thank you sweetie, xo

    dana – xoxo back to you!

    ali – I’m glad you like the photo – I could stare at it forever. I am so touched that you think of me. It is a precious gift that I feel I don’t desreve.

    thriftshoplawyer – Thank you for the encouragement, your kindness makes me want to try harder. xo

  12. Deni says:

    I agree with ali. I think of you every day. Your grief at losing Max and my parents grief at losing their son exist on this strange plain where it’s always “what if” and always heartbreaking. Having said that; you are amazing. You are kind and thoughtful, and honest and generous and funny and smart. Please don’t leave me with more “what ifs.”

  13. Hammie says:

    My sister died by suicide in September. Her twin, me and my older sister are all still reeling. Life feels perilous. I watch my children while they sleep, I worry if my husband is late & doesn’t text, I dread the call to my cellphone in the middle of the night. I switch it off now. Give me the news in the daylight when I can cope.
    Both my parents are cunts, they do not deserve anyone’s condolences. it is us 3, her husband and her son I worry about. I’m sad for her, she meant to do it. I’m also angry that she couldn’t get perspective. Then I’m sad and sorry again.

    What is getting me through Sister Is nurturing. Doing everything I can to support and help my children, my little family. Work has been put aside as I focus on being a Mum and a better wife. I’m a very busy Mum, as you know; but even if it is challenging, it is satisfying to know I’m doing everything I can.

    Stay here with us. xx

  14. Kellie says:

    I think Suspended has hit it.
    Parents love differently. I know mine would have seen my passing as a blip on the radar, and possibly a relief-they didnt have to worry about me, or explain why I am so different anymore.

    It makes me sad for both of us-we both deserved better, different outcomes.

    Hang in there, I am trying to also. And the lat 6 months havent been easy.

    We deserve better things coming!!!


  15. Andra says:

    Oh Sister and Hammie
    I feel your grief.
    That’s all I can tell you.
    I feel your grief.

  16. Linda Lowry says:

    Hello, Sister…..I too am a bit salty – to say the least. My heart was broken the day God took my son, Mikey, at age 15 away. I struggle on a daily basis – for four years now – to find a glimpse of a silver lining to this struggle. A bereaved parent is forever a bereaved parent. My condolences to you….and I hope that someday we get at least a glimpse. Sending love to you my fellow sister angel mom……Lynn

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