Friday, April 14, 2006

Suicide Secrets

Earlier today I was wrapping up what I figured would be my last blog post before the end of Spring Break, and I noticed there were a couple of fire engines and a bunch of police cars just a few doors down the street. It was a slow day, and I wasn't properly dressed, so I just poked my head out the front door to see what was going on. I didn't really know what was happening until later, when a neighbor rang my doorbell.

What I was told was the stepfather of a girl my daughters had grown up with had died by suicide. I was pretty floored, and remembered when this girl's father had died of a heart attack over a decade ago. The heartache was huge.

I don't have anything clever to say here, but would like to call on the small community of people that read these musings to share what they know about suicide. Is is something that takes over a person suddenly? Should anyone have seen this coming? The family is completely at a loss to explain why this happened. So, please consider sharing your experiences or knowledge about this tragic subject.



MB said...

I am intimately acquainted with suicide, as my cousin did that back in 1985 and then a month later a very close friend who would have become my sister-in-law and auntie to my girls did. In both cases drugs and alcohol were involved...both had strong chemical dependencies and both did not respond the help that was offered through AA, NA, or the medical profession. I still have not put these experiences to rest. Catherine (the to be sister-in-law) was a creative, beautiful person who was so dragged down and made fun of by supposed friends in her formative years that she eventually turned to chemicals to dull the pain. My cousin never recovered from his father having an affair, leaving the family, and then demanding that his son (the suicidal cousin) accept the situation, and shunning him when he could not. I still wish I could have done something more for Catherine because I remember one time when she shared with me, as she was off to an AA dance, that she knew it wouldn't stick, that she knew she would start drinking again. I know that whatever was at the root of her despair remained buried and in the dark, never to be addressed. It is so complicated, the life that brings people to suicide. I cannot judge them for ill and I know in my heart that the run-of-the-mill dictum against suicide in the staunchest of religions is wrong. The Divine Spirit within our Universe and within us loves them as much as ever. So I speak of her lovingly to my children, sharing with them what a lovely auntie she IS to them. The whole family speaks of her with love, as we do about my cousin, who was a lost lamb. Remember that Joshua ben Miriam told a story of the shepherd who sought a single lost lamb, leaving the flock to do so, so important was this one lamb to the whole. That's how I feel about those we love who just can't stand the pain anymore and leave us by their own hand. I feel healing can still happen so I talk about the beauty of their lives before they left us and share with my kids about them. My in-laws have now lost 3 of their 4 kids. One to AIDS, one to suicide, and one (my husband) to heart-attack. Yet they still live in our hearts and their lives can still be full of warmth and love for my girls. Blessings! Mary Beth

JT said...

Please see the above site. I've heard the ads on KNBR 680 and I'd been considering particiapating. Geoff's recent Bits leads me to add a couple comments.

I have an idea that the religious prohibition against suicide that I'm familiar with was merely an attempt to frighten people away from it. And scaring someone straight might work and might not. I think the latter but I don't fault the church for trying to prevent this ultimate tragedy. Whatever works as an intervention to give the sufferer more time to find their way out is obviously good. And the dogma that says you'll go to hell if you kill yourself has undoubtedly been supplemented with more compassionate outreach.

But those who attempt and those who succeed at suicide do need forgiveness for the wreckage they leave behind. The problem is removing the blinders that prevent knowing that the cure is worse than the disease -- that there is hope.

The above argument must be changed if terminal physical illness is what's driving a sucide and I don't feel competent to offer one now.
I'll just stick to what I know:

Depression is certainly a large part of the mix that drives suicide. Anger is another. Suicide is the last play in any argument about betrayal.

Desperation -- that feeling of having no way out -- of failing at everything -- of violating all the principles that you've accepted as those you'll live for -- it can be overwhelming. And the shame of admitting failure keeps the lid on until it's too late.

I'm so sorry to hear the news of your neighbor. Maybe little if any of the above applies to his situation. But I'll close by copying some words that have helped me. from the Norhern California Psychiatric Society:

• Say what you mean.
• Risk standing up for your beliefs
• Be willing to let your differences of opinion come out in the open.
• Be responsible for what you say and do.
• Take constructive comments from others without getting angry.
• Learn a lesson from every experience, good or bad.
• Don't be afraid to express your emotions.
• Take care of your body.
• Ask for help when you feel out of control.
• Enjoy today and look forward to tomorrow.