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CW: Suicide

Editor’s note:  This blog post will likely be painful to read, since it discusses trans suicide and its aftermath. We encourage people to read it, however, because we want to introduce people to a really powerful tool for dealing with traumatic memories. We also want you to know that 21 years after Marcelle’s death, Loree is doing fine.

It was the worst memory of my life, seared into my brain.

I’d awakened that morning and couldn’t hear anything. The bedroom didn’t feel right, and Marcelle wasn’t answering my calls. I went downstairs and started toward the garage to see if the car was missing, and on the way passed his office. His body was half in and half out of his chair, already cold.

It’s said that seeing a dead body is inherently traumatizing, and of course it’s far more traumatizing when it’s your life partner and co-parent of 17 years. The image immediately engraved my brain, and for many years ambushed me when I least expected it.

I therefore didn’t expect much when, about a decade later, I decided to use the image as my “trigger” for an exercise FORGE had adapted from work by Esther and Jerry Hicks. I did not expect it to work; how would I ever be able to shift this image into something less painful? 

I will be forever grateful that I tried.

In the “Trigger Clock” exercise, you write the trigger you want to work with in the center of an old-fashioned clock with 12 numbers. At 1:00 you write the most common reaction or response you have to that trigger. (Mine was “upset, panicked, screaming.”) At 2:00, write a response that still feels possible, but is less intense than what you wrote on the hour before. This time, I added “remember to breathe.” At 3:00, write another response – still conceivable – that is even less intense. This time I wrote “remember it’s just a memory.” As I worked my way around the clock, my feelings of what was possible began to shift, as well. In my imagination, things could happen that did not happen in real life – that’s the point of the exercise, to step-by-step imagine being able to change your reaction to something that seems unchangeable. By the time I got to noon/midnight, the picture had shifted completely. The body was still there, but in the corner, on the floor, I was also rocking Marcelle. Together, we were witnessing and grieving the tremendous pain that had led him to kill himself.

When I think of that morning, I no longer see me standing alone, staring in horror at Marcelle’s body frozen falling from the chair. Instead, I see the two of us on the floor in the corner, rocking and crying together, both comforting the other. It is a picture of love in the midst of terrible pain, and it’s an image I can live with.