MC's Reactions and Survivor's Guilt
I hadn't really seen much discussion on this aspect in particular, probably because it's just a small amount of the dialog for the end of Act 1, but it's been sticking in my mind for the last few days since I played the game, and replayed to get all the endings, there's something that's stuck out to me, that's been eating at me since I did. and even thinking about what to write here is hard, and has me shaking. but I want to say this. I need to say this. let's talk a bit about the MC's reaction at the end of Act 1 to finding Sayori's body, and what that's like
the MC's reaction after finding Sayori is the perfect example of the survivor's guilt someone feels when losing someone to suicide. I know, I've been there. last year, just about this time in fact, a week before Christmas one of my best friends, whom I had known for almost fifteen years committed suicide. and at the time, he was one of my roommates. and I'm the one that found him
it was a Monday. I had just gotten back from a business trip the day before. I arrived late at night, and my friend was asleep, snoring in a strange manner. he had gotten sick that previous week, so I just figured it was because of that. the next day came, in the morning he was sleeping quietly. I went to work, came back home, went about my day. but I hadn't heard from my friend that day. as I got to the end of the day, I got a little concerned because of his illness. and I hadn't heard from him at all that day. I asked my other roommate, and he hadn't either. so i peeked into his room. he was lying there, didn't seem to be moving. I went over to try and shake him awake, and found him stiff. I put my hand to his face, and it was ice cold.
writing this is hard, because it's bringing me back to that night. we called the police, I called his parents. his dad was going to drive out, but they lived about an hour away now (my friend had moved in a couple months before, they used to live a block away but his family had to move north because the homeowner they were renting from decided not to renew their lease to sell the house instead). my concern from the call was that the illness he had had gotten serious, and I held some small hope that maybe if they rushed him away they could save him, but once the police arrived on the scene everything came crashing down. he was confirmed dead, and also as they inspected his room (which I did not do), they found a suicide note, and alcohol and some medications
MC: "What the hell? Is this a nightmare? It has to be. This isn't real." And yet, it was.
I had first learned about six months earlier that he had depression, and he had tried drinking himself to death once before and was rushed to the hospital for it. at the time, when he admitted that to me and my other friends, he had said he was getting help and didn't want to do that again. and we thought things were fine. he never said he was in a particularly bad place before it happened. he had lost his job the week before, but he had said he was fine with it because he had enough money for the next month, so he could worry about finding another job after Christmas, and he didn't really like working at that place much anyway. the last things he messaged me while I was out of town on my business trip was him trying to figure out what to do for building a computer for one of his brother's for christmas. the very last message I received from him was him talking about some new flavor of Rockstar he bought that he was going to buy more of
the next day was dark, for his family, my roommate, and me. his father worked at my same company, and didn't go to work that day. I tried going in to work. my team was having a potluck that day. I could barely eat anything, and I ended up breaking down there, and my supervisor let me go home. I went out to my car, called my mother, and finally broke down there on the phone telling her what happened. I then went out, picked up my mother, and we drove up to the mountains and just sat there in my car watching elk for a few hours, talking about nothing really. it was comforting. after that I went home, took a nap, then went to talk to one of my church leaders, who told me about his own brother having committed suicide within the last few years and how he'd handled it. it was helpful talking to someone who had gone through it.
to cut the story short, and not give the whole outline of the way my next month went, let me then move to the topic. the survivors guilt. for weeks before it subsided, I had to wonder. where did I go wrong? what could I have done differently? on the surface, it seemed he was fine at the time. nothing in his conversation beforehand let us know he was having a low point. while I was out on the business trip, his dad had come down and they had gone Christmas shopping for the family together, and he said he seemed perfectly fine to him. as MC puts it, "Everything was normal up until a few days ago." so what could I have done? "How could I be so helpless? What did I do wrong?" was it because we weren't having enough time to spend hang out? for a long time we would get together and watch anime and TV together several times a week, but the few months before that made it really difficult once he had moved up north, and then once he had moved out of his family's place and moved in to be one of my roommates his job schedule and mine didn't line up. that was one of my thoughts. If I had only spent more time with him lately, then maybe I could have seen he was hitting a low point. If I had been more dilligent in making sure he was alright after losing his job. "My swarming thoughts kept telling me everything I could have done to prevent this. I could have prevented this. I know I could have prevented this!"
and it's never really gone away. as time has gone on, it got lessened, a lot of it because of some good advice from my church leader after dealing with his own loss - that, no, it's not my fault, it was his decision, and only he really knew what was in his mind at the time. my church leader's brother had killed himself with a gun. he just knew that if he went and took that gun from him he would have kept him from committing sucidie, but the truth is if he had been that determined he would have found a different way to do it. driven his truck off a cliff, or something else. that's the survivor's guilt. the weight that gets left on you by the loss, thinking that it was somehow directly your fault, and there was something you could do to change it, when it wasn't. and you can't. you can help, you can love them and hold them close and do whatever you can for them, but, in the end, if they're going to do it, it's their choice, and you can't change that. even if you wanted to, you can't go back.
but it still lingers. memories bring it back. memories come back, reminding us. his father sits next to me at work now, and turned to me a few months ago and said he saw someone that looked just like him on the train that morning. just a few hours ago I saw someone at a card shop that looked just like him, except with a different hair color. a card shop, in fact, that he had applied to work at back before he got the last job he had before his suicide. flashes of anxiety as my thoughts go back to that night when I don't have anything else to think about. losing someone to suicide is hard. being the one to find them is brutal. I still have nightmares about it from time to time. or other related dreams. I had one just the other day that he was alive again because he was cloned or something. I had one in October that he wanted to hang out, but I wasn't around to meet up with him. in summer I had one that he was still alive, but was still planning on suicide and gave us a date, with my other roommate and I trying our damnest to talk him out of it to no avail. that one was brutal, and I dont think I slept the rest of the night after waking up at like 2 in the morning form that one
but to finish my post, because now I've got anxiety so bad that I need to go take a walk through the below-freezing cold outside just to calm down, these are my thoughts. this game. this game. this bloody brilliant game. Dan said in the AMA I believe that he did draw from real-life experience as part of writing this, and, bloody hell, it's clear to me that he did. because right there, in that tiny fragment of dialogue, everything I've felt for the last year is so perfectly laid out. but as this is reality, there's no escaping it by rewriting the game. this, truly, "isn't some game where I can reset and try something different." but I made a choice. to try and escape the survivors guilt. not to "carry this guilt with me until I die", but to try and let it go. to try and move on.
it's a process. every day it's a process. coming up on the year anniversary of it happening, and playing this game, now makes it more of a process than ever. I hate this game. and I love this game. I hate this game for making what happened come flooding back to me, and I love this game for making me remember so much that I need to accept it, move on, and not let it destroy my mind and my life too