What It's Really Like Being A Death Investigator

What It's Really Like Being A Death Investigator

It’s the worst day of your life, and it’s my Tuesday.
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I meet people— a lot of people— on the worst day of their life. It’s the worst day of your life, and it’s my Tuesday. And my job is to get you through it.

OK, so technically my job is to investigate a death, but really, I’m there for you. I show up to work every day and deal with horrific things just on the off chance that someone tells me, “Thank you. You really helped me today.” I can’t describe the gratitude that accompanies a simple thank you from a grieving family member. I know you won't remember my name. Hell, you probably won't even remember the day. But if you remember that I made you calm; that I didn't break you into a thousand more pieces than you thought you'd ever fracture into, then I've done my job. I think anyone I work with would say the same. We wouldn't show up otherwise. When people say they don't know how I do this job, that's what I tell them. We do it for you.

My job is not glamorous. It’s not like CSI, and it’s not always “cool.” It’s heartbreaking. It’s dirty. It’s frustrating. Do I see some cool shit? Yeah, absolutely. And every time I see some cool shit, I have to pretend they didn't mean a thing to a single soul. If I remember they mattered to someone, then I lose my shit, and I'm no good to anyone.

I see everything from grandma with lung cancer to an unidentified with her throat slit. I see everything from the heroin addicts to the suicidal. I have seen natural deaths, accidental deaths, suicidal deaths, and homicidal deaths.

My whole world is reduced to the living and the dead…and honestly, the longer you live with the dead, the harder it is to return to the living.

I eat too much. I drink too much. I’ve built up walls I spend a lot of time reframing. Every time someone chips away at that wall; when one death hits me just the right way to knock a brick loose, I have to spend time repairing it. I have to put up that wall again, because if I don’t, I will lose my mind.

I will lose my mind because you lost your mom, or your brother, or your son. I can’t let this job get to me, or I can’t help you. So while I will be compassionate, patient, and understanding with you, I may also seem at other times dispassionate, impatient, and aloof.

I compartmentalize because I have to. We make jokes because we have to. Nine times out of ten, we're laughing. Few topics are off limits and even fewer jokes are. Like I said, I know it's the worst day of your life. The problem is, it's still not the worst day of mine. In fact, I'm probably in the middle of my week, stressed as all hell by the million other things waiting for me back at the office, and your dead loved one really put a kink in my plans for today. I say this out of necessity because this is how I survive waiting from day to day, doing this job.

I will not do this job forever. I always planned for it to have an expiration date. As it is, there's a 50/50 chance I know someone who knows someone. The other 50% of the time? I'm waiting for the ones I love most. My dad, my mom, the overdoses, the suicides, and the motor vehicle accidents. It's a constant game of, "What's the last name?"

I can't express to you how exhausting that is. It's picking up babies that should have lived another 80 years and men and women who flat out gave up. It's looking at men and women whose lives were ripped from them, whether it was through their own actions or not. It is seeing the worst of humanity, every single day, and coming back. It is seeing the worst thing someone can do to another human being, and taking those small moments of pure humanity and gratitude as payment.

We don't get paid enough for what we do. I can barely afford my life. I'm not the perfect employee, but I'm good with you. I have moments of doubt, but I wouldn't trade a single moment of my job for a second.

I'll admit I can't do this job forever, not without losing myself. I can feel my walls cracking slowly. I've only got a few more years of this left in me. Still, I know even then, I will continue to help people in my career. It's in my blood. But just know that I'll cherish every second of every interaction I've had. I pray for you all, and your loved ones, every night. Just know that. Long after you've forgotten me, I'll always remember you.

Cover Image Credit: Mary Smith

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To The Person Who Feels Suicidal But Doesn't Want To Die

Suicidal thoughts are not black and white.
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Everyone assumes that if you have suicidal thoughts that means you want to die.

Suicidal thoughts are thought of in such black and white terms. Either you have suicidal thoughts and you want to die, or you don't have suicidal thoughts and you want to live. What most people don't understand is there are some stuck in the gray area of those two statements, I for one am one of them.

I've had suicidal thoughts since I was a kid.

My first recollection of it was when I came home after school one day and got in trouble; and while I was just sitting in the dining room I kept thinking, “I wonder what it would be like to take a knife from the kitchen and just shove it into my stomach." I didn't want to die, or even hurt myself for that matter. But those thoughts haven't stopped since.

I've thought about going into the bathroom and taking every single pill I could find and just drifting to sleep and never waking back up, I've thought about hurting myself to take the pain away, just a few days ago on my way to work I thought about driving my car straight into a tree. But I didn't. Why? Because even though that urge was so strong, I didn't want to die. I still don't, I don't want my life to end.

I don't think I've ever told anyone about these feelings. I don't want others to worry because the first thing anyone thinks when you tell them you have thoughts about hurting or killing yourself is that you're absolutely going to do it and they begin to panic. Yes, I have suicidal thoughts, but I don't want to die.

It's a confusing feeling, it's a scary feeling.

When the depression takes over you feel like you aren't in control. It's like you're drowning.

Every bad memory, every single thing that hurt you, every bad thing you've ever done comes back and grabs you by the ankle and drags you back under the water just as you're about the reach the surface. It's suffocating and not being able to do anything about it.

The hardest part is you never know when these thoughts are going to come. Some days you're just so happy and can't believe how good your life is, and the very next day you could be alone in a dark room unable to see because of the tears welling up in your eyes and thinking you'd be better off dead. You feel alone, you feel like a burden to everyone around you, you feel like the world would be better off without you. I wish it was something I could just turn off but I can't, no matter how hard I try.

These feelings come in waves.

It feels like you're swimming and the sun is shining and you're having a great time, until a wave comes and sucks you under into the darkness of the water. No matter how hard you try to reach the surface again a new wave comes and hits you back under again, and again, and again.

And then it just stops.

But you never know when the next wave is going to come. You never know when you're going to be sucked back under.

I always wondered if I was the only one like this.

It didn't make any sense to me, how did I think about suicide so often but not want to die? But I was thinking about it in black and white, I thought I wasn't allowed to have those feelings since I wasn't going to act on them. But then I read articles much like this one and I realized I'm not the only one. Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, and my feelings are valid.

To everyone who feels this way, you aren't alone.

I thought I was for the longest time, I thought I was the only one who felt this way and I didn't understand how I could feel this way. But please, I implore you to talk to someone, anyone, about the way you're feeling; whether it be a family member, significant other, a friend, a therapist.

My biggest mistake all these years was never telling anyone how I feel in fear that they would either brush me off because “who could be suicidal but not want to die," or panic and try to commit me to a hospital or something. Writing this article has been the greatest feeling of relief I've felt in a long time, talking about it helps. I know it's scary to tell people how you're feeling, but you're not alone and you don't have to go through this alone.

Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, your feelings are valid, and there are people here for you, you are not alone.

If you're thinking about hurting yourself please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit suicidepreventionhotline.org to live chat with someone. Help it out there and you are not alone.


Cover Image Credit: BengaliClicker

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Some Of You Never Lived In A Dorm And It Really Shows

Dorms are weird and so is college, but some of you might not know.

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Such an exciting time, the beginning of the school year when thousands of bright eyed and bushy tailed college freshmen pack up their things, arrive on campus and try to make a glorified cracker box into their new home. If you asked ten different college students about their experience living in the dorms I'm sure you would get ten very different and very interesting answers.

For those of you that never had the pleasure (or not) of living in a dorm, here are just a few of the curiosities it provides.

1. Living With An Absolute Stranger

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I don't know who thought up this practice that is otherwise thought of as dangerous, but I'd like to talk to them. Thankfully my situation didn't turn out too bad. Only one of our roommates was a little sketchy, but only because she was never home and didn't talk, then moved out at semester. Nothing like my friend's roommate who puked in his own bed then left it there for over a month... clearly, that kid was ready for adulthood.

2. The Bathroom Situation

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Most dorms have communal bathrooms and that right there calls for an endless array of gross and awkward situations. Shower flip flops can't even save you from those unidentified objects stuck in the drain and you don't know what's been in that toilet today. Figuring out the delicate choreography of getting in the shower without being seen naked and dodging all the cute boys in the hallway while you run to your room in your robe with your hair in a towel.

3. Interesting People On Your Floor

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You are living in a building for a year with hundreds of people. Eventually one of these individuals will no longer be able to contain their freakish ways and habits to the inside of their room. I'm talking about the kids who run through the lobby in their onesies, water guns in hand, having an argument over their favorite anime characters. Also the guy I met at 11 a.m. on a Wednesday in the elevator who was in only his boxers searching every floor for his clothes, wallet, keys, and dignity.

4. Figuring Out Adult Things Together

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Usually, when I break something and need to fix it I go to my parents, but in the dorms, I only had three roommates who probably did the same so we had to get pretty creative. Is that expiration date real or just a suggestion? Probably whichever roommate loses noes-goes has to man up and test it. Thankfully we have the internet now so problems like that time we accidentally got expo-marker stuck on the AC panel were able to be fixed with just the click of a button.

5. The Unpredictable RAs

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It's pretty much a game of roulette with what kind of RA you'll end up with. Will it be the cool guy who opens the first meeting of the year with the sentence "Listen, guys, I'm not a regular RA, I'm a cool RA. Do what you want, just don't get caught ok?" or will it be the RA that suddenly thinks this is their chance to become the Cop from their childhood dreams. "DID I JUST HEAR LAUGHTER? SIMMER DOWN IN THERE OR I WILL WRITE YOU UP." Unfortunately, I had the latter.

6. The Forever Bond You Share With Anyone Who Ever Lived In Your Dorm

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Any time I am out and mention that I lived in Lewis Hall someone comes running over screaming "LEW CREWWWW" and gives me a high five. Then for the rest of my years on campus proceed to do so every time they see me out. We all went through the same thing inside those walls, we all know the politics, and we just get each other on a level no one else can. I don't make the rules, it's just how it is.

So long story short if you have the opportunity to live in the dorms, definitely do. This list may sound like a list of reasons to scare you off, but I assure you it is the same list that most dorm veterans also get sentimental about. Dorm life is your right of passage as a freshman and you should definitely take it.

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