Self-Inflicted Violence: creating a menu of options for coping, even for living with grief and joy and fear and love…

These past 2 months have been a wild ride, and I wasn’t on a horse very much. Life brought experiences that were deeply moving and difficult. Opportunities for growth were everywhere, and I found myself struggling and finding myself at the same time.

Meet my nephew (I have a family that adopted me as an adult, so now I have an extended network of beloved relations created by choice). This is Conor and his daughter Selena. Beautiful. This beautiful child changed his life for the better, exponentially. She made his life much happier than he had known it could be. And his life was a short one. We lost him on April 5th, nine days after a car accident he’d been in on his way to work.

Obviously it has been a brutally hard time for many, especially his mother and twin sister, Erin. We all coped in many ways: often we bonded together and hugged, some prayed, some kept vigil, some kept a whole circle of people in touch. And many of us coped with our more harmful ways. Some went back to smoking, or smoked a lot, some drank, some raged, some spaced out… The day before the accident I was a sober vegan. The day after I was a junk foodaholic when not drinking. I also hugged and helped and wept and tended to those I love. We all have gotten insight into how we cope, and are slowly healing ourselves piece by piece as we adjust to a different world without Conor. Actually I was surprised that the two of us in the family who have lived with SIV did not turn to cutting or burning. I guess it just didn’t seem necessary, though we would have understood each other if we would have. Perhaps that is why we didn’t need to?

While trying to deal with the loss of Conor I had a second challenge. The friend with whom I had rescued our three horses decided to pursue things differently. Ultimately she took Pocket, the first horse we rescued together, to a different farm and I took sole responsibility for Harriett and Cloudd (see earlier posts if interested). I knew I could not afford both horses and was overwhelmed and felt so helpless… and I could not easily find a home as both of them have special challenges…

Hmmm… Helplessness and overwhelm, aren’t those just the classic triggers that so many of us struggle with? I wasn’t sure how to cope but in this situation I had many more options, didn’t I? What a different experience… I coped by creating options, asking for advice, asking for help, looking for answers… and I got some great advice, much help and encouragement, and an offer to work off the board for one of the horses. I am a farm hand and just grinning. And one of the greatest celebrations is that Erin, Conor’s sister, cherishes my horses and they have brought her not only comfort but laughter as well even in the hardest of times.

I’m writing all this as a way to think about the intense but various ways I coped in my most recent challenging times. It has been helpful not to judge myself too harshly for the ways I wish I hadn’t, the eating and drinking, but yet I have a newfound sense of compassion for myself as well. Healing is never perfect nor linear, is it?

So, how have you been? Has your healing been rocky or smooth, expansive or survival, supported or lonely?

3 Responses to “Self-Inflicted Violence: creating a menu of options for coping, even for living with grief and joy and fear and love…”

  1. Tracy Says:

    I am so sorry for your loss, for Selena’s loss!! I’m glad you have each other.

  2. Erin Wood Says:

    Losing Conor opened my eyes to a whole world of things. I now realize how short life is. Cliche but completely true. I surprised myself by not turning to cutting or burning. In any other situation I would have. At first I thought it was shock that stopped me. But two months later I still haven’t felt the urge and I think part of it is because I lost my twin. I know he wanted me to stop. He didn’t like the idea of me harming myself, regardless of my reasoning. I’m still not used to not having an urge to harm myself. I’m still completely shocked.
    I love you Ruta. Thank you for this.

  3. Ruta Mazelis Says:

    I love you too, Erin, and that doesn’t change, no matter what. If urges come, then that is what urges do, though we often judge ourselves for their coming. Everyone grieves however they grieve. I join you in the shock, the surrealness. Yes, Conor didn’t want you to cut. What is also true is that he understood the SIV, very well. I am always interested by how much I don’t want others to self-injure, in whatever way, but I tend not to have the same desires or compassion for myself… there are so many ways to self-harm, some of them sly, few as strongly reacted to as cutting, no? First we survive, then we heal, then we live wildly free, happeir than we could have imagined. At least that is what has worked for me!

    May this place be one where we are here for each other, cutting (or other ways of SIV) or no longer needing it, to be a support and solid ground of understanding. I hope that others are interested in creating this place of safety and connection and inspiration…


Leave a Reply