Sin Eaters

by Lori Dwyer on July 31, 2012 · 5 comments

Folklore tells us that ‘sin eaters’ are sourced from the lowest castes of society past– beggars, thieves, bastards, peasants, and probably single mothers and whores as well.

The task of the sin eater was simple– to relinquish the dead of their earthly misdeeds. The family placed water by the corpse of their beloved, bread was broken on their chest, salt sprinkled across their stomach.

The sin eater partakes of the bread and salt, quenches their thirst with the water. Depending on custom, tradition or rumor, sin eaters were paid a pittance, not at all, or took the pennies from the eyes of the deceased as their remittance.


Occasionally, I receive an email that haunts me, one that leaves an image that burns my retina like a bright flash.

(Orange rope, blue shirt; green plastic bag, red gas cylinder…)

I never dislike receiving them, never mind reading them. I just try to make sure I’m in a good place when I open them, so I am prepared… I make sure I open them on good days, so the effect they have on my afternoon will be minimal.

I understand… on so many levels, I get it. This is so rare, what I’ve seen, what we’ve been through; and it’s so taboo to be the one left behind, after a suicide. No one speaks about it, it seems. No one except me.

And I find hands reaching for me, constantly seeking me out in this darkness. People who have seen the same. People who have a picture in their mind somewhere, something ugly.

I take thehorrific pictures burned into their mind like shots from a bright camera flash along with my own burning pain and lock them away in place no one else can see. Somewhere where their ugliness won’t spill out and taint the entire world with it’s shrieking trauma, it’s enveloping velvet darkness.

(turn on the light an she’s just there, just ninety centimeters away hanging by her neck and my God she’s been there two days)
Evry comment and every email I get, from every person who reads my stuff, gives me something. Every one adds a tiny piece of happy, a tiny piece of OK, a tiny piece of self esteem… and they all build up to create a finger-knitted barrier of belief in myself. Something that helps me survive when everything else falls down.

But I will admit that some emails make me jealous, when I let myself be… jealous that others have me, where I did not. And instead of being locked up and held tight, my ugly truth was spread all over and everywhere.

It’s not that I’m ashamed of it– I never will be, I don’t think. It’s more a matter of the pity my reality inspires when I see it on the faces of people who know almost kills me some days. It’s the only thing that comes to close to breaking me, ever… seeing the reality of how very difficult this actually must be, in the stark normality of others eyes.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Rachel August 1, 2012 at 11:03 am

Shit Lori, sometimes you really give me goosebumps.
This one did.
I guess what I want to say is that when you were locked in a dark room with only your nightmare, you poured it out into the world, and in some small way, all the souls who read your words, followed your blog, or watched over you on social media, they tried, a little bit to soak up some of the pain, some of the horror you were feeling. And somewhere in a dark room, someone who has felt that same (the same, but not the same) nightmare, is pouring their heart into Google and there you are. Reluctant standard bearer for a truth that no one wants to speak about, or to hear. You didn't choose it, the motherfucker chose you.
But you have risen to the occasion in a way that is simply awe-inspiring. You'll find no pity here. I hate that this happened, I hate that it happened to you. I hate that it is happening right now to people all over the world. But I don't pity you. How can I pity you? You're awesome.
xxxxx Pix


Melissa July 31, 2012 at 9:14 pm

I wish you had had a place like this Lori, you've helped so many people. Sometimes we need someone to bear witness – and it sounds like you've done that for so many – shared their burden (as if your burden isn't heavy enough). what a remarkable woman you are.


Claire July 31, 2012 at 7:34 pm

You are a beacon, Lori. I'm so glad you're talking about this.


Miss Pink July 31, 2012 at 12:16 pm

But you did have people Lori.
You did.

What you are doing though is so important. People need to read this, to see the aftermath.
It's so easy to move on and put that smile on and tell everyone you're good, you're ok. It's easy because you don't have to feel that wall go up, the awkward one. It's easy because you don't feel hurt when they don't do anything because they didn't know. But what you do, as helpless as I feel a lot of the time, is so brave and beautiful and admirable. Keep talking. Keep screaming. What you have been through isn't ok, but you…you're a bit alright you know?


Anonymous July 31, 2012 at 11:23 am



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