I think most of us have been touched by the specter of suicide. Whether through the death of someone we know and love or the pain felt when a celebrity takes his own life, it seems impossible to remain unscathed by this tragedy.
My maternal grandfather committed suicide when my mom was twelve, so in some ways she would always be twelve.
Obviously I never knew Grandpa Bob, but he remained a force in my life as I grew up, my mother’s maturation having been halted by the death of the one man she really loved and admired. The rest of my mother’s life would consist of attempts to fill the role of father figure.
But because my mother was touched by death at such an early age, and since I was privy to the story from early on, suicide seemed a natural part of life. I was never surprised when I heard of someone taking their own life; indeed, I found it a little strange to encounter someone whose life had not been impacted by suicide.
I would come to know suicide a little more closely when my stepfather hanged himself. I was in my mid-twenties at the time. Shortly before taking his own life, Chuck had been picked up going the wrong way on the Jersey Turnpike. It was a case of early Alzheimer’s, and my stepfather decided in some portion of what was left of his brain after years of drinking and huffing paint thinner, that he no longer wanted to live.
I share my experiences with suicide to show that I am not unfamiliar with the devastation it can wreak. I also share them because I want to say something about the topic that I feel needs to be said.
One often hears suicide called the most selfish of acts.
But is it?
While it may seem like a selfish act to those left behind, this does nothing to address the pain and suffering of the one who took her own life.
Let’s think about this for a moment. Killing one’s self is the most drastic measure one can take. Can we even fathom the amount of pain and suffering an individual must experience before deciding it’s simply unbearable to continue to exist? As Ian Maclaren said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
In this month of suicide prevention may we always hold near and dear the people among us, especially those battling difficulties, and that means essentially everyone. Think not just of what their loss might do to us, but of the amount of pain and suffering they are experiencing. Listening to someone can mean the difference between life and death.
And please if you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts get them to a health professional immediately.
Here is the number to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Their website can be found here: http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.
Be well, friends.