Finder

**This post has a few graphic details. Read with caution.**

Finders.

Those are the unfortunate people who find a dead body. I’ve only heard it in reference to suicide, but my guess is that it’s a pretty universally traumatic thing, regardless of by whose hand death occurred. As far as levels of trauma associated with finding, I’m going to go ahead and assume that the messier the death, the more traumatic. I’m also going to assume that the closer the finder is to the dead person, the more traumatic it is.

In which case, I’m probably pretty smack dab in the middle of the pack for ‘amount of trauma’ received. Ian’s death was not messy. Not at all. It seems he was even kind enough to make sure his bowels and bladder were empty. He looked ashy, is all, and his eyes were half open. The fact that he’d already started to stiffen was a push toward the more gruesome, I think. However, he was the center of my world. I was closer to him than anyone else in my life. So that was pretty bad.

They talk about PTSD, about what it does. What the symptoms are. I’ve certainly experienced some of them, nausea, tension, bursts of anger. But those are also symptoms of extreme grief, from what I can tell. So I wondered if maybe I had somehow avoided the more extreme PTSD. I thought maybe I’d managed to escape it somehow.

Until this afternoon, when my mind flashed back to finding him. Suddenly I realized how gruesome even a clean, non-messy dead body is. The picture ran around my brain, unavoidable and terrible.

There are things you can’t un-see. Things you can’t un-hear. Things you can’t un-feel. They will live within my mind forever. With luck (and a lot of help), maybe they won’t suddenly jump to the forefront with no warning eventually. Maybe they will be part of my past, rather than making themselves an unavoidable present experience.

But they will always be with me. They have changed me irrevocably. I am no longer who I was. I am now a Finder.

After meeting with his family, before they went to his house, I went back. I went to clean up any mess. To take away the more terrible things his death left behind. There was no mess, for which I thank him. However, I took the helium tank. The tube. The plastic bag I’d ripped from his head. The strap he’d tightened around his neck that left marks.

I figured the damage had already been done to me. Why make them deal with those things? They were dealing with enough. I’d seen the worst. What’s the harm in going in and removing the things that would hurt them? Maybe it was stupid. Maybe I should have let someone else take that burden. But I couldn’t bear to think of them having to do so.

As of this day three weeks and one day after his death, I still have those items. I don’t know what to do with them. I’m afraid to throw them away, in case for some completely incomprehensible reason sometime in the future, I want them. Or someone else does. I can’t fathom any reason that would make any sense whatsoever, but they tell you not to make major decisions for a while, so I’m not making a decision on that, because who knows?

His loss alone would have changed me irrevocably. Has changed me. But on top of that, I am now a Finder. I don’t know what that means yet. I don’t know HOW it has changed me. I can’t tell yet. But I will know. I will eventually understand what this means to me and my life. My psyche. And that scares me.

I don’t want this cup. Please take it from me.

But no one can. And I wouldn’t wish this on anyone else.

And there’s where I feel like maybe more of a freak than anything else. If he had to do it, I wouldn’t pass this off. Given the choice, I would choose to be the one who saw him first, who saw everything. The one who knows all the details. I have a billion unanswered questions, but were I not the one to find him, I would have even more.

I wonder if he knew that about me. I’d be surprised if he didn’t. But I’d be just as surprised to learn that it was something he considered during his final hours. If he thought of me at all. Of what being a Finder would mean in my life.

Hello, I’m Iris, and I’m a Finder.

Written 3/12/14

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7 thoughts on “Finder

  1. I wish with all my heart I could take this away from you. Just pluck you right out of the middle of it.
    And, of all the people I know, Iris, you are the one who would be able to have the strength and determination to not only share the experience which lightens it a bit from you, but also turns it into a forum that may be helpful to many others.
    Much success on this venture, and I am forever your biggest fan.

  2. I can relate. I’m not a ‘finder’ in the real sense, as I was there with him to witness the whole thing, but I can relate because I know how those images creep into the consciousness and take hold. They can pop up with no warning and send you reeling. Whenever I dreamed of Tim for a long time after his death, THAT was the image I’d see of him. It was difficult – I wanted the real guy back! Not this grisly representation!
    I was told by other ‘finders’ to pre-select a memory – a good one – and purposely replace it with the last one I had whenever it came up. This from others who had the same experience. It DOES help and it allows you to remember some of the things you really want to – some of those memories. But you’re right : it does never completely leave you.
    You are the luckiest and the most unlucky person in the world. (((((hugs)))))

  3. By the time I had a chance to get to know him, he’d been broken down by the world. By love, by loss, and by depression. But he still shone brighter than anyone I’ve known.

    Wow. So true.

  4. You’re breaking the silence, and I’m listening. I’m not doing much because there’s not much I can do besides listen. But you’re not shouting into the void. I’m here, listening. I thought I’d speak up so I wasn’t so invisible.

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