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Old August 8, 2012, 09:48 PM   #1
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Overcoming mental aversion

I've been shooting all my life. I don't remember a time in my life when I wasn't a shooter. I know that by age 5 I was well versed on the operation of a lever action .22 LR. I couldn't even shoulder it properly, but I could shoot it. I purchased my first gun (well, Dad did it with money I'd saved up) at age 13 (bolt action .308 for those who care). I own on the order of two dozen firearms.

So when I say that guns have always been a part of my life, I mean it.

Yesterday, my father committed suicide.

I've not gone out to open the gun safe, but I know what I'll find. All the rifles and handguns? Hey, they're the same guns they always were. But I'm not sure I'll ever look at a shotgun the same way again. I fear that every time I pick one up, the first thing that will pop into my mind is the image of the pool of blood. Of the smell. Of generally not nice things.

I don't want something that's given me a lifetime of good memories to suddenly doom me to a lifetime of picking at that particular mental wound.

Has anyone here ever gone through this? Obviously, the answer to that question is "Yes." OK, is anyone willing to talk about it? How did things play out?
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Old August 8, 2012, 10:29 PM   #2
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Inigo my prayers are with you. It's been more than ten years since my Mom took her own life. It gets better, I promise. Mom used pills not a gun. There is nothing I can think of that will take away the pain at this stage. If you are a man of faith, pray, it helps, I know. Mom left a note that helped us understand what she was feeling. It was ,literally, unbearable emotional pain. The pills stopped the pain and gave her rest and peace. Perhaps your Father used the gun for the same thing. I still miss her ,that doesn't ever stop, but I believe where she is the pain is ,mercifully, gone. Feel free to PM me, it helps to have someone else around who understands. God be with you my friend.
Gaily bedight, A gallant knight In sunshine and in shadow, Had journeyed long, Singing a song, In search of El Dorado
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Old August 8, 2012, 10:46 PM   #3
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I'm sorry for your loss, I truly am. My best friend killed himself in March using a gun. I know a similar feeling of what you are going through. Suicides are a messy thing for the people left behind, but I would not hesitate to seek a grievence councillor.

What I found to help me the most to move on was to do what I enjoy. I am not a religious man. I did not pray for my friend. What I did was tell stories of the good times and laugh at all the good/fun/silly memories. I went out and took long hikes and went shooting in order for me to get past the guilty feeling. Your father obviously instilled the love of firearms in you from a young age. I say keep shooting and keep his memory with you.

Again if you feel it gets too unbearable, seek professional help. I can not stress this enough because it is not easy to go through what you are going through.

Feel free to PM as well. I'm here if you need someone to talk to. Sometimes that's just the best thing, even if it is to a stranger
Segui il tuo corso e lascia dir le genti - Dante

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Old August 8, 2012, 10:51 PM   #4
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I'm sorry to hear about your loss.
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Old August 8, 2012, 10:55 PM   #5
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Walk away and give it a year.

Talk to friends.

It's going to take time.

Ridgecrest? Navy China Lake per chance? I'm right down at Edwards AFB if you want someone to talk to. I buried my best friend last year after I dug him out of the hole that he flew his fighter into. Life will never be the same, but it does come back. You will laugh again and one day you will think of your Father and smile and not cry. Your guns will be a connection. Just let them lay for a bit.

Been there amigo. A man without tears is a man without a soul.

PM if you want my cellphone to talk.


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Old August 8, 2012, 11:26 PM   #6
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First: Thanks for the kind words and advice, folks.

I'm actually kinda sorta OK with the suicide. 20 years ago my mother died of cancer in an absolutely horrific manner. Long and drawn out. Painful. Physically disfiguring. The man who raised me died the day my mom died. He was forever changed and forever "dark" after that (to my knowledge, yesterday was the first day he'd fired a gun since mom died). He was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer. Totally treatable, I know, but he was *terrified*. Mom's cancer was supposed to be treatable, after all. There was more to it, but most of it boils down to him simply being afraid of a fate worse than death. So while I know that he was blowing things out of proportion, that's easy for me to say. Thus, there's no (or at least, very little) survivor's guilt and such. He was simply haunted by the demons of the past and could not escape them given his current medical situation.

It's just that right now I associate shotguns (even pics I'm finding online) with his death and the aftermath.

Scrubcedar: Did looking at a bottle of pills bring back memories for any length of time?

Willie: Yes, China Lake (although I'm a silly servant, not military).
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Old August 9, 2012, 12:32 AM   #7
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Yes, looking at a prescription bottle for pills for a while would make me think about what was the last thing she saw. It went away, weeks, months maybe? Not much longer than that. Hard to remember, tough time.
That you already see that he was in pain and fear and that its gone is in some ways a good thing. In other ways it is a bad thing, it can send you down the same path. I know, I've been there too.
Something that you mentioned in your first post worries me a little. You mentioned how the scene smelled. I noticed that too. I was a nurse for a long time, I know what death smells like. Mom's house smelled like that the first time I went in afterward. It utterly crushed my composure at the time like nothing else. They've done extensive research, smells trigger memory in a way that nothing else does. Strongly. Powerfully. You need to be prepared for this, it's strong and you're right to worry. Best advice, and this is a guess, try to lay down good new memories having to do with time on the range. Good people and Good times. Something that you really enjoy and you have to concentrate on is very good medicine. I used wood working. I can't say this strongly enough though until you learn how that smell is going to affect you have somebody with you who cares EVERY TIME. As you now know better than the rest of us, nearly unbearable grief and loaded weapons are a poor combination.
Gaily bedight, A gallant knight In sunshine and in shadow, Had journeyed long, Singing a song, In search of El Dorado
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Old August 9, 2012, 07:21 AM   #8
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In 1998 my father commited suicide with a S&W Model 10. All of my shooting friends seemed to think that it would turn me away from guns. I still have all of my guns. I still work on guns and compete and instruct. Give it time my friend. It will take a while but you'll get through it.
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Old August 9, 2012, 07:29 AM   #9
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I encouraged a friend to purchase a gun to hunt with, He later used it on himself. I have never encouraged others to make a first gun purchase since that happened. Only time helped me. It will get less painful with the passage of time. Good Luck to you.
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Old August 9, 2012, 08:17 AM   #10
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I'm very sorry to hear about your loss. I can identify with what you are going through, as my older brother John died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound 16 years ago.

I did go through a period where it was very difficult to pick up any of my guns afterwards, but it passed after a couple years. I came to the realization that he would have used some other method if the rifle hadn't been there; the gun was only a tool.

That Marlin 336 now lives in my safe, probably never to be fired again. It was one that my brother inherited from our Dad, so I will keep it in memory of both of them.

I would suggest that if you need a break from the guns, take it. You'll know when it is time to take them up again.

My prayers are with you.

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Old August 9, 2012, 04:04 PM   #11
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I'm new to shooting, but I recently lost a friend who killed himself with a gun. I hadn't known him long, was looking forward to learning to shoot with him, and he was becoming a mentor to me in other ways. The loss was surprisingly hard for me.

I don't know if you've heard this but I found it helpful to know the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Not everyone hits all the stages or in that sequence, and no telling how much time each one needs, but it's a general guide and maybe just knowing about these stages can give you a sense of support.

Ultimately it's not about the method of death, but still there may be lasting symbolism for you. Give yourself time and let what will happen happen. Best of luck to you, and try to open up to people in your immediate circle.
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Old August 9, 2012, 05:19 PM   #12
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Inigo, I am sorry to hear that. After hearing your story it reminds me of my own. My mother died in 2000 of a lung disease, my father has not been the same. My aunt(mothers sister) committed suicide a couple of years after. She had a hard time dealing with my mothers death. My aunt shot herself also. My poor dad is exactly as you described, a different person. He still has tough days as do we all. I worry about him all the time. There is a lot more to the story on my dad, but he is fighting through everything. Please know while I might not know what you are going through,(nobody does) please know that if you ever need, I am here. Send me a message if you need to talk, I can give you my number. I truly wish you the best and know you have the support of the community. Only you can decide about the firearm issue. Take care and be strong....
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Old August 9, 2012, 06:02 PM   #13
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On the plus side....

I tried going to work today. Lasted for about half the day before I was just too mentally exhausted from maintaining focus and went home. The interesting thing was that somebody mentioned something to the effect of, "3 weeks until bird season!" and my immediate reaction was like, "Woot!" It wasn't until a few seconds later that I realized bird season meant shotguns, but I was already smiling at the thought of bird season so it seemed to mitigate the shotgun imagery.

I'm thinking that this may be as simple as getting out and shooting some birds to provide me with a more recent good memory involving shotguns.
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Old August 9, 2012, 06:11 PM   #14
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It is not the guns fault. Or yours, I been there with a dear , dear friend.
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Old August 9, 2012, 08:45 PM   #15
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Good for you inigo. One step at a time, one foot in front of the other. Have you got buddies you hunt with? If not, it occurs to me, that there are probably guys here on TFL from your area. I hope to bird/small game hunt for the first time this year and plan to ask around for guys in my area when the time comes.
Gaily bedight, A gallant knight In sunshine and in shadow, Had journeyed long, Singing a song, In search of El Dorado

Last edited by scrubcedar; August 10, 2012 at 10:35 AM.
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Old August 9, 2012, 09:05 PM   #16
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I feel for you and your loss.

I've been there (not with a parent or sibling) and actually have been close to there a few times.

A close friend of mine asked me to go with him to help him pick out a shotgun for bird hunting. He picked out a Browning Citori and loved it. Two years later his wife cheated on him, left him for the other guy and took him to the cleaners claiming he abused her and threatened her if she left him. I knew him and during that time he was staying with me at my place. He was a mental wreck the whole time - she was the center of his world and suddenly his world was crashing down around him. After the court proceedings were done he was allowed, with police escort, to return to his house that he'd lost to her to retrieve his belongings that he'd been allowed to keep. One of them was the shotgun. He committed suicide with it in his new apartment in Detroit two months later. Personally I think the Browning Citori is a fine shotgun but for a while there I couldn't even look at one without feeling guilty.

My cousin (first cousin on my mother's side) unfortunately got involved in gangs in Minneapolis and was killed in a gang shooting. He had a Glock 17 tucked in his waistband when he died. Apparently he didn't even have a chance to draw... For some reason I associated the Glock 17 with his death and for almost a year I felt animosity toward that model Glock for that reason.

A while back I'd given my then best friend a ChiCom 9mm pistol as a birthday gift. I never knew he had something wrong in his head - extreme depression - and neither did anyone else in his family apparently. He started seeing a psychologist several years after I gave him the pistol and nobody knew about it except me and his girlfriend. He was diagnosed with clinical depression then but it never occurred to me that I should probably ask for the pistol back since by then he already had more guns albeit they were all long guns. One day for no apparent reason at all he sat down in his recliner in front of the TV and while his girlfriend was in the kitchen he put the 9mm to his temple and killed himself. I felt at fault for years.

After all of this I finally figured out something - it wasn't my fault and it certainly wasn't the fault of the guns involved. I've since gotten over my issues with said model guns involved and with my feelings of guilt and sorrow. Just remember that no matter how bad it is it can't be blamed on you, your actions or the guns. I was told by a very wise man that in every one of these scenarios the person who died would have died whether I or the said guns were involved or not. They'd just have found other ways to die. As for my cousin he would have died regardless because of his life choices.

Just give it time and, as you mentioned, maybe you just need to get out there and pound some birds - sort of shot therapy.
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Old August 9, 2012, 09:29 PM   #17
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I don't blame the gun folks. My father was quite literally a genius-level weapons engineer(*). You could have put him in a rubber room and a straight jacket and he'd have found a way to kill himself if he so desired. No, I don't blame the gun at all.... But that doesn't mean that the visual of the gun doesn't have the power to trigger thoughts/memories that I wish it didn't. Notice that I'm not saying that I don't want the memories. I'm a grounded person. I don't like the idea of an artificial experience. If it happened, I want to remember it; both the good and the bad.

I just want to remember it on my own terms rather than every time I see a picture of a pump action shotgun.

(*) His biggest claim to fame was designing the night targeting system for the AC-47.
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Old August 9, 2012, 09:38 PM   #18
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Hey Indigo,

I'm very sorry for your loss and understand what you're going through for reasons that I won't go into right now.

Give yourself some time. Those firearms aren't going anywhere and there's no hurry about if or when you return to the shooting sports. Only you can decide. Don't rush things and do what you need to do to survive this trial.

In the interim, just hang in there and get through it. We'll be here for you.

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Old August 9, 2012, 10:19 PM   #19
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Wow, your post really touched me, I am so sorry for your loss and for the world's loss of your Dad. I have lost close friends and family recently but not to suicide.

It sounds as if you are on your way to healing and acceptance, you seem very pragmatic about the entire experience. We all enter this world alone and exit it alone, each of our deaths will be a unique experience. It's too bad that your dad had to take that way out, but fear and insecurity without faith in something are very, very powerful forces. I hope that you will be able to revel in the positive memories of both of your parents, remember the good times you all shared together. And it is very healthy that you can bear to think about the dark times as well.

Not sure if you are a man of faith, but I will pray for your healing. Be well and continue healing.
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Old August 9, 2012, 10:33 PM   #20
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Years ago, my best friend committed suicide with a Ruger Blackhawk revolver in .357Magnum. I was a pallbearer at his funeral, and it was a tough time for me. I guess I was lucky to come to understand at least a large part of why he did what he did, what he was going through at the time, and to realize that how he committed suicide was totally unimportant--the issue was why.

I think that at some level, we all find within ourselves a desire to shift the focus or blame away from where it belongs to avoid having to deal with the real issues involved. It was ultimately a decision HE made and carried out. The gun he used to accomplish his purpose was just a tool and didn't do anything other than function as it was designed to do.

I'm sorry for your loss.
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Old August 10, 2012, 12:36 PM   #21
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The very first firearm that I bought was a .22 pistol.
One of my two best friends did also, the same brand and model.
The following year he, either accidentally or not, killed himself with his.
But I never associated his gun, or mine, with his death.
Tools are just that.
So, don't let the passion for an enjoyable hobby, or even a way of life, suffer because of what someone else might do.
It wasn't the fault of the gun.
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“Don't take life so serious, son, it ain't nohow permanent.”
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Old August 10, 2012, 12:52 PM   #22
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I'm sorry for your loss, Inigo.
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Old August 10, 2012, 01:11 PM   #23
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Private message sent.
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Old August 17, 2012, 02:41 PM   #24
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First, I want to thank everyone who participated in this thread. Whether I agreed with your input or not, every post gave me food for thought.

That said.... What a difference a week makes.

While I'm cautiously optimistic, I'm finding myself looking forward to bird season. I suspect that loading up the truck will be difficult, but I also suspect that I'll be fine 10 seconds after the first bird has flown by me(*).

(*) I say "flown by" because let's face it, I'm a lousy shot. The odds are very much in the bird's favor.
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Old August 17, 2012, 02:50 PM   #25
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Be strong and I truly hope you get back into your "groove" with shooting shotguns. I wish you the very best.
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