|An abuse survivor writes
|A story about suicide
|An abuse survivor sent this to me, perhaps this helps to explain the devestating effect disfellowshipping has on those that have been abused.
Things have calmed down again with my mother to the point where I found
myself once again in her kitchen last night. Drinking too many cups of
coffee as I always do at her house, I imagine if I were a smoker I'd have
been lighting one cigarette after another instead.
It had been a pleasant enough evening, I sat there with my crocheting in my
lap, something I always take with me to my mother's house so that if I get
nervous or stressed out, my hands, and my mind, have something to do and
somewhere to go.
My mother had been acting strangely all night, I attributed it to left over
uneasiness over the recent family wedding debacle. But finally as the
evening wore on, she finally put her hand on my shoulder and said that she'd
just had some news and didn't want to tell me, but didn't want me to hear it
somewhere else later.
I hate conversations that begin like that.
I just looked at her, waiting for her to continue, and she said "It's about
so and so."
Instantly their faces registered in my mind. He, tall, blond, an incredibly
shy man who was always trying so hard to do his best, at everything. She,
bubbly, outgoing, seemingly the perfect complement to his shyness. A young
JW couple that I had known, and loved, for years.
"Are they splitting up?" I asked, divorce being the first possibility
crossing my mind.
I thought of their son, who had to be an adolescent now, even though in my
mind he was still the infant that I had held and rocked to sleep at a
wedding when he was only four weeks old, comforting him so that his
exhausted mother and father could have a bite to eat, and maybe a dance or
two before returning to the trying schedule that new parenthood demands.
"No," Mom said, tightening her grip on my shoulder.
Darker thoughts crept into my mind, illness, accidents, injury. I wasn't
prepared for her next sentence.
"He did something to himself."
It took a moment, and suddenly I realized where she was going with this. "Is
it serious?" I asked, hoping maybe his attempt had been unsuccessful.
"As bad as it can be." she said, and her eyes filled with tears.
"He killed himself!" I said, an instant wave of nausea seemed to bring my
heart up into my throat. "Why? How could this happen?" I was already
wondering why one of the kinder, closer families in that congregation I
remember from my teen years didn't step in, say something, do something.
Then the ton of bricks landed on me fully when she continued.
"Well, he was disfellowshipped about eight weeks ago."
Suddenly, I saw everything in the room through a red filter, literally.
Outrage, frustration, despair seared my heart. I fought with all my might
not to vomit.
After a few minutes, I could finally talk again.
"He tried harder than just about anyone I ever knew to do everything right."
I was frozen in my chair, dumbfounded.
Then the memories came.
I remembered how much it took out of him just to get up there on the
platform and give a talk in the ministry school. So painfully shy, so
sensitive, and the man who was the school overseer seemed to take perverse
delight in finding flaws in his talks which were never there. Invariably,
my friend would be standing at the back of the auditorium, beet red, looking
at his shoes as the idiot on the stage humiliated him in front of the whole
congregation. I would always pick a couple specific points out of each of
his talks and tell him how much I appreciate them, and he always said
"Really?" surprised anyone found anything of value in his words.
In him, for that matter.
My friend, (I'll call him Drew) and his wife were my favorite young couple
in the congregation. I was there through my teens until my mid twenties, and
in that time I got to know Drew well. I was very shy myself in my teens,
believe it or not, and as his wife would be happily chatting with everyone
after the meeting,
Drew and I would talk a little at the literature counter as he gave me my
magazine order. We shared a similar sense of humor, we were kindred spirits
in our shyness, and he became a big brother figure to me. I remember when
his wife became pregnant, he was so sympathetic that he threw up every day,
because he felt so bad about her morning sickness. This was a man of rare
heart and soul.
After having known him a couple years I got to know things about his
upbringing that he didn't openly share. His mom often twisted his ear, and
his brothers, as she dragged them by it to the back of the Hall for
spankings. He was only five, his brother about three, and she did this
whenever they couldn't sit completely still at meetings.
He struggled, always, as so many young JW men do with trying to provide for
his family because he had no education past high school. He tried so hard
for years to run a small business, and he looked up to my father for all
he'd accomplished in that way with only a high school diploma. My dad sat
with him for hours more than once and helped him draw up plans of action,
educating him. He was always grateful, and followed my dad's instructions
to the letter.
I had a huge crush on Drew's younger brother, who was on the fast track to
Bethel and lived out of state. When he came to visit, Drew was sure to
introduce us, took every opportunity to put us together in car groups in
service and all.
I know he had high hopes that his brother would take to me as readily as I
took a shine to him. It wasn't to be, his brother went away to Bethel. I
think Drew was more disappointed that it didn't work out than even I was.
When I left the organization, one of the saddest things to me was that I
wouldn't be able to talk to Drew and his wife anymore. I hadn't seen them
as often as we'd moved away, but when we did, it was as if no time had
passed. Drew also observed at times the way my first husband talked to me,
and he didn't like it. I could tell, he would turn red, and look at me, and
his eyes said it all.
I remember, some months ago, my mom being at a wedding where Drew had
approached her and asked about me. She made sure that I knew about it, so
that I would know "how much people still care about me." My heart ached,
and I missed my friendship with Drew more than I wanted to think about. I
was glad to know he hadn't forgotten me.
So last night, I felt as if I wanted to wake up from this nightmare as I
heard that Drew was disfellowshipped a couple of months ago. I didn't know,
if I'd known, I would have called him up to talk to him. To make sure he
was okay, to tell him that things would be alright. If he would've believed
me, I don't know. But I didn't get the chance, and now I never will.
I can't believe he's dead.
Only in his thirties, Drew is dead. His 13 year old son has no father. I
cannot help but believe, knowing Drew as I did, that the disfellowshipping
was the thing that pushed him over the edge. He only ever wanted to do
everything right, all the time. I don't know what happened, I don't know
what he was df'd for I only know that there isn't anything I can imagine him
doing that justified him giving up and taking his own life.
My mom cried, I cried. She said that she worried about me, that she didn't
want me to ever "get to that point." with giving up on everything because of
being shunned by everyone. She went on a short rant about my cousin's
wedding (3 weeks ago) where unbaptized family members of the bride who "knew
the truth as well as any of us" who are active drug addicts and as
promiscuous as they come sat at the reception eating cake, and I wasn't
there. She admitted that she and my grandmother had had a conversation
where they lamented this fact to each other.
"I don't know what they went by making that guest list." my mother
complained. "If they were going by conduct half the guest list shouldn't
have been there."
"Neither do I." My grandmother replied sadly, and then she went up to her
room where she stayed for the rest of the night.
My mother admitted that she is "struggling" with the organizations stand on
shunning, she said "When you treat people as dead when they're still alive,
what good does that do?"
I commented that I felt it was barbaric, and outdated.
She ranted that the governing body was putting demands on people that were
pushing them past the breaking point, dividing families, and instead of
giving people reasons to come back, it's giving more and more reasons to
just give up and die instead of trying anymore.
In the end, though, she says she believes that Jehovah will fix everything,
that the society will see the errors in its ways and change its stance
again. Our conversation lasted for hours, as I told her flat out that this
is the reason organized religion has no place in my life anymore.
I may never know why Drew did what he did. I don't know what led to his
disfellowshipping, I don't know what made him so desperate that the only way
he saw to stop the pain was to die. But I'd be a damn liar and a complete
hypocrite if I didn't tell you that I'd been in that place more than once in
My brother criticized Drew for what he did, said he wasn't thinking of his
family, I tried to explain that sometimes suicidal people believe
(incorrectly, of course) that they are causing their families so much
trouble that everyone would be better off if they were gone.
He doesn't understand. It's something that you can only understand if you've
ever been to that place, and I told him in the end that I was grateful that
he didn't understand that mindset. That I didn't ever want him to be able
I am left with a million questions that will most likely never be answered
now. I cried myself to sleep and had nightmares all night of Drew being put
into a body bag, laying on a table in the morgue, being put into a
refrigerator. Images of his sweet face, lifeless, and his lips as blue as
his eyes were hit me every time I close my eyes. Sometimes even when they're
I loved him dearly, he was such a rare person.
I wonder what happens now to his wife, what about his son. First thing I
thought of was the posts that LyinEyes wrote earlier this week about her
mom's suicide, and I thought how no kid should ever have to give up their
parent to this. It's so wrong.
Disfellowshipping and completely cutting someone off from, in Drew's case,
as in mine (and the case of everyone who had the misfortune to be born into
the organization) literally every person they have ever known well and cared
about, or who cared about them, is barbaric. How can they ever expect anyone
to come back to the organization when their true colors are shown, and your
very family bows to mind control and fear and shuts you out, thinking all
the time that they're doing the only loving thing, because that is the line
that the society is feeding them?
I am devastated. How many more? How many more of my friends have to die
this way? I could just as easily been another statistic. If not for my
second husband, I would have been, without a doubt, a memory now in the
minds of my friends, just like Drew will be.
I love you, Drew. I am so, so sorry. I wish I could've done something to
help you, I would've done anything I could to keep you alive.
I have to wonder if his family went the whole shunning route, especially his
brother. Knowing how "spiritual" they were, I imagine that they would have.
If they did, I wouldn't want to be any of them right now.
They will have to live with their actions the rest of their lives. Was it
No. Of course not. If you're a JW and you're lurking here and reading this,
and you've cut family members off because they've been disfellowshipped, I
hope that you will think very carefully about me, and about my friend Drew
and realize that if you don't speak up now and tell them you love them, you
may never get the chance. If you found yourself standing at their grave
tomorrow, could you live with yourself? Think carefully about this.
I wonder how many more people have to die before the rank and file say
enough. Enough already.
Too much, already.
Goodbye, Drew. I wish you could've known how much I still adored you, and
always, always will.
To quote Don McLean's lyrics...
"This world was never meant for one as beautiful as you."
If I had to write Drew's epitaph, that would be it.