Our communities are wailing. Time and time again, I start to write this post and then I stop, unsure about the best thing to say to both stop the well of sadness and honor all the feelings that come with grief.
I’m starting to realize that there is no perfect thing to say. After all, whatever words of wisdom or comfort that I have will never, ever, bring our beloved ones back from the dead. And yet, I am compelled to respond to our communities’ grief by writing.
Since April 2015, our San Diego LGBTQIQA community has endured four deaths by suicide of 14-ish year old teenagers of trans* experience. Just in the last few days, I have read of a gay man who also died by suicide in San Diego.
I say endured as we are the ones left behind, left wondering why we couldn’t stop them, wishing we could have protected them from their pain, and left wondering what to do now to quell the wretched agony of surviving the death of our loved ones.
I remember being a freshwoman in college having come home to attend services at my synagogue with my sweetie. As the service drew to a close, the names of those who had died in the past week, were read and a prayer to G-d was said to mourn them and honor their memory. I heard the name of a gay man who I knew from Hebrew School. We had met again some years back and reconnected over being queer-identified and Jewish. I had been thinking about him a lot in recent days and hoping to find the time to jot him an email once again. I returned to our home synagogue and was utterly shocked when his name was read aloud. I thought it couldn’t be him. Somehow my mom had come to services to meet me and while I don’t remember how I got to her, I was there, hugging her and crying, unable to believe that my friend, my comrade, my buddy, was dead. I knew he struggled with depression but I couldn’t believe that he would never be emailing me back again. I learned later that he had died from a suicide, found by his roommate at college.
The waves of grief I felt tumbled over me. I wasn’t a close friend of his and yet, I was a friend and I was devastated. It’s been over 15 years since his death and while my life has continued, I have never forgotten him and the fact that his intense pain and mental anguish led him to die. The grief comes in puddles now. The splish splash memory of a moment he and I shared way back in the seventh grade or when we reconnected in college comes my way every so often. More often though, I remember him when I hear of a death by suicide in the LGBTQIQA communities.
I am caught in the wake of their deaths. I am tremendously sad to hear about a person who was in so much pain and struggled so intimately with a mental illness that unseated them.
I am deeply troubled that there appears to be a rash of deaths by suicide in my adult home community of San Diego. My activist side kicks in and I want to do something, anything, to stop this pattern from continuing. I want so much to find out why these deaths are happening and swoop in to fix structural difficulties in whatever system is troubled: bullies at school, problems at home, issues at work, not enough health care options, etc.
But, since I am but one person and I don’t really know the full picture of the situation, I know somewhere deep down inside, that I cannot really fix what I most wish I could, to bring them back and to change the world into a just place where no one dies because of who they are. I used to feel hopeless at this point. What could I do to alleviate suffering? Could I really have a positive impact on the lives left behind?
When my friend died, I used to drive past his college daily and, with fist raised, shout, “I’m living for you, friend. I’m living for your dreams of being a gay man who wanted a family but did not think that he would be able to have one (as a gay man). I’m going to fight for justice, for you.”
These days, I fight for justice in a different way. I am now a licensed psychologist (PSY 27497) who is fighting for social justice and mental health by opening a psychology practice in Rancho Bernardo specializing in empowering transgender, intersex, and sexual minority adults and the people who love them come to terms with their identities, including their religion, negotiate their relationships, and find social and medical interventions to best suit their needs in order to find happier and more fulfilling lives. While I cannot bring our loved ones back, I can try to support the people in our communities to work to co-create hopeful and happier lives.
Please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on my contact page for support, if you have questions, or need additional resources. More information about my psychology practice can be found at www.doctorabi.com