What to do when you don’t know what to do

Something pretty sad happened about ten days ago. A man I cared about was killed by the state of Texas.

The following week, I received two letters from him. That was wierd. I was in a pretty wierd place about the whole thing anyway. It felt sort of like it had happened but more like it was a story I was telling people about an imaginary world. An imaginary world where we kill each other to teach others that they shouldn’t kill each other. We strap them down and give them an injection and watch for 22 long minutes while they gurgle and choke and die.

This world sounds too crazy to be true. So maybe it’s not true, I told myself. Maybe this whole episode is happening in my mind.

And so, as time went by, I went from being pretty gutted half of the time and disbelieving the other half, to now total disbelief. There are no more letters arriving in the mail from him.

He is fading from my mind. I don’t know how to make myself understand that it has happened. It feels that maybe the whole thing never existed, maybe he never existed?

Walking into the high security unit last month in Texas and talking on a telephone to a man behind a glass screen seems like it happened a million years ago. In my imagination.

The whole thing is getting harder and harder to comprehend. Occasionally, when I do sit and think about it and this suddenly awful feeling washes over me, I quickly move my thoughts onto something else before the sorrow overwhelms me.

I’ve been moving my thoughts on pretty efficiently for ten days now.

And I’m worried I won’t ever be able to understand what’s happened because I’m doing the moving-on thing automatically now.

So now I don’t know what to do. How to move on. At the moment, it seems I have relegated him to a compartment in my mind that I’m not sure I’ll open again.

But this man was important to me. He meant a lot. He was a real person and his life must not be allowed to mean nothing.

I guess I’m asking you all what I should do? How do I live with the awfulness of what has happened but not spend all day feeling miserable?

22 responses to this post.

  1. All you can do is treasure the moments and the communications you had with him. We’re all only here in this world for a relatively short time really which makes it so important to make the best use of that time. You can’t change what’s happened; you need to find a way to manage your feelings. You’re going through a grieving process and that is different for different people. Some can shrug their shoulders and say, “Ok that person has gone, I’ll move on” whilst others will want to think through all the good times (and bad sometimes) that they had with that person; some are over it in a few weeks others may take months or even years. It’s very individual. There isn’t one answer and what works for one may not work for another. My suggestion would be to write down what you can remember of him and his character and your feelings towards him and his situation and put it away somewhere safe.


    • Lots of people, friends as well as bloggers, have suggested writing something to preserve my memories of him. Maybe that process will help me realise what has happened as I’m still struggling to believe it.


  2. Posted by Catana on July 30, 2013 at 13:02

    I understand the difficulty, and I haven’t even met any prisoner face to face or corresponded with one. But I became *acquainted* with someone through their blog and their memoir. Just a couple of months later, they were executed by the state of Florida. I knew it was coming, but I was still devastated. And I still am. I want very much to open a correspondent with a particular Texas death row inmate. We have a lot in common, but I don’t know if I could face getting to know him, knowing how it will end.

    Find a way to honor his memory. Work for the abolition of the death sentence. Remember that pain is part of life and we can survive it.


    • Getting a letter while in prison is like a little light in the darkness. I say, write to this guy in Texas. It has one of the harshest death rows in the country and we, as outsiders who care, should offer what we can, even if all we give is a friendly word and even if the friendship is only short.


      • Posted by Catana on August 2, 2013 at 10:47

        Thank you for the encouragement. I’ve taken the first step. I know it will be hard, but this man is so courageous in the face of every attempt to shut him up. He’s earned a college degree in spite of the system’s attempts to keep him from it, and is going for his next degree, even though he knows that he may not live to complete it. He does have a lot of outside support or he couldn’t have accomplished what he has, but there are so many who comment on his blog or write to him, simply to insult and belittle him, wishing him dead and in hell.

      • He’s in Texas, right? Their execution drugs run out in September and they’ll struggle getting more so there is hope for him yet. I only wish my friend could have had his date delayed til after September 😦

      • Posted by Catana on August 4, 2013 at 11:11

        lazylauramaisey — To your question, yes, he’s in Texas. He doesn’t have a date yet, but his time is running out. I’m afraid that the state will find some way to continue with executions, even if they’re delayed.

      • They’ll have to find a way to get the drugs as they’re not allowed to manufacture them in the US and most other countries have refused to sell it to them. Check out as organisation called Reprieve and their SLIP project. I volunteered with them for three years and they’ve done a lot of work on this stuff.

      • Posted by Catana on August 4, 2013 at 18:07

        I recently became aware of Reprieve, but hadn’t checked out their site yet. I think I read that they’re responsible for the manufacturers’ refusal to sell their drugs for executions. …I just bookmarked the site and took a couple of minutes to look around. I didn’t see anything about a SLIP project, but will look further. Thanks.

      • It might just be called Lethal Injection Project. We called it SLIP but that might just have been the name we used in the office.

      • Posted by Catana on August 4, 2013 at 18:28

        I found it. I’ve been trying to settle on just one or two organizations to support. Not a lot of money to contribute, and I figure someone on death row needs it more. I’ve started writing a book about the death penalty and LWOP, so most of my energy goes to that, but I still want to help in a more organized way. Will be checking out Reprieve and one other to see where I can be most useful.

        Something else, not directly connected, but it could be helpful if someone wants a platform for educating people about these issues. I recently joined Quora, a discussion site where you can also blog. San Quentin prison in California has an arrangement with ti whereby prisoners can answer questions. My first serious post was about the release of prisoners to relieve crowding in California’s prisons. The URL is http://www.quora.com/CS-McClellan/Posts/California-Scheming-the-Fear-of-Crime

  3. So sorry you’re going through this 😦
    Is there a cause he was passionate about? If so, could you consider volunteering a little time, raising a little money to contribute towards it or even write a blog post about it to raise some awareness? It wont bring him back but his legacy and something very positive about him will live on in this way. I know it is by no means the same thing, but when I was told I might lose my unborn daughter, I started donating to different charities on her behalf… I chose a different one every week- sometimes two. And I don’t have a great deal of money, so I just gave what I could… and I blogged a little about the charities and causes I was supporting to raise awareness. I needed to know that my little girl had made an impact on the world- a positive one- regardless of whether she ever had the chance to live in it.
    Hope you are ok x


    • Thanks so much for this advice. There are quite a lot of abolitionist movements in Texas who I’ll get in touch with or donate to as that’s the thing which might possibly affect other prisoners.


  4. You are writing. You are telling your story. Perhaps you tell more and it becomes real again? You tell his story or write about what he was like? I do vote for a little professional help for you. This isn’t only a loss but a most surreal and extraordinary circumstance. This is going to take some work.



    • I still don’t really believe it’s happened, which is why I don’t feel that sad. Writing would probably help. It’s just sitting down and doing it and that in itself requires a certain amount of belief that his death has happened. Hmm. Feeling wierd.


  5. Posted by Alex Jones on July 30, 2013 at 19:17

    Like all issues in life the circle has to be met to move on.

    I suggest a tree is planted in memory of the deceased, so that at least he leaves this life with something positive to mark his passing. The tree may be enough to move on from this death.

    What happened in Texas is a reflection of the cruelty and ignorance of most nations of this world where human life has been reduced to nothingness.


  6. Posted by abbiirose on July 30, 2013 at 20:33

    There is no easy way to deal with it, every person and situation is difficult and although you’re confused about how to deal with it you need to work towards finding a strategy that will work for you, although under very different circumstances when my Grandad died I wrote a poem, it was an honest reflection of how I was feeling- confused, sad, angry. Turning this experience into a positive will take time, and maybe a counselling session or similar will help. I’ve had hypnotherapy and I found it reall worked for me, maybe that could help you?
    Sending you lots of encouragement.


    • Thanks Abbi. I’m still waiting to feel sad about it but my mind is telling me it hasn’t happened. Which is making it hard to make any steps to recovery.


  7. Perhaps, you should spend a post and tell us why he was important as well as what he did that put him in prison. Make him human to us and give yourself the chance to mourn by telling the whole story.
    Just a thought.


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