It’s easy to know what I’m feeling at nearly any given moment, because most of the time what I’m feeling is anger. The intensity of that anger varies, sure, but it’s always there–with few exceptions. Post traumatic stress disorder is often associated with anger; talk to anyone with PTSD who’s willing to be honest about her experiences, and she’ll tell you about her anger. But looking back, the anger inside of me dates back farther than the domestic violence. I wonder if continuing in that relationship was a subconscious way to justify all that rage within.
It took me years to finally realize how much sibling abuse and parental neglect affected me. It took me years to realize I’d experienced those things. Yes, I grew up hearing my brother tell me I was a mistake who should never have been born, and I watched my father spend more time at his typewriter failing to publish than with me. Yes, my teenage years were marred by a mother who refused to hear me, but when I was younger, I thought all of that was normal. You hear that line a lot too, when you talk to people who came from abusive or neglectful households. We all thought that was just the way life was.
Suicide recently came into the public consciousness because of the death by hanging of Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington. Whenever I hear about someone dying from hanging, I think about this kindhearted, sweet as hell, alcoholic teenage gutter punk I knew who hanged himself. The last time I saw him, I was in a van going to the Oregon Country Fair. I saw him walking outside on the side of the road. We lived in Seattle so this wasn’t expected. I considered asking the driver to stop so I could say hi to my friend, but then I figured–and I remember this thought so clearly–“Oh well, it’s okay, I’ll see him again.” I didn’t.
We never know when we will lose the people we love. Whether by suicide or something else, our lives are these tenuous, crazy things that can be shattered without a moment’s notice. We need to better appreciate the people in our lives, but we also need to forgive those who leave us on purpose. I’ve written this post to help you understand why you should let go of the anger you feel at your loved one who committed suicide, even though that anger is totally justified.
Forgiveness. That noble condition of the human mind which allows us to reconcile our past pains with our survival instinct. Some believe forgiveness brings us closer to the divine by allowing us the opportunity to rise above those who have hurt us. Others think of it as a way to absolve ourselves from pain and trauma.
Me? I’m a grudge bearer. I’m not exactly proud of this. I believe that forgiveness is an admirable ability. But it’s pointless to try to pretend away a quality of mine which is so very obviously real. Betrayal embitters me. Even small slights, those I can eventually forgive, keep their teeth in me much longer than for most.
When I was in grad school, a roommate, driven by weird jealousy and social isolation, made a false accusation against me. Nothing came of it. It didn’t leave a mark on my record, and nobody believed her; what she did was petty and stupid and everyone knew it, but I was furious. I raged at her. I called her a “cunt” to her face even though I am a feminist. It was vengeance, pure and simple; even if only vengeance enacted as cruel language and glaring. My husband once told me that if I could forgive Betsy, the roommate, I could probably obtain enlightenment.