When someone we know in the news, an entertainment celebrity, a sports figure, fashion or music takes their own life, it sends shock waves through our fragile systems, and shock waves through the world.
We have been touched by their lives and sometimes feel personally assaulted without ever having met them. I remember when Spaulding Gray died. I was privately angry for years. Though I never met the man, I had seen him perform numerous times and, in some sense, he was a mentor for me. It was only years later that I remembered, read and heard how much pain he was in physically, mentally and emotionally that I began to have compassion for his suffering and for his act, in acceptance. Anger left and love remained. So when Robin Williams died, upsetting as it was, I had more ready compassion for whatever suffering he dealt with, too.
We may have been told that people who take their own lives are condemned to Hell or purgatory, or to unending cycles of reincarnation, but I don’t believe in a hell or that there are unending cycles of reincarnation for those that leave this Earth early. And who are we to judge if it is early or not, or a part of the person’s natural life cycle with a tendency to suicide written into their stars. Neither do I believe there is a God or Goddess sitting in judgment pointing a finger at those who leave by their own hands. I do believe in love and love and compassion and love.
A friend and I were talking about suicide recently. I was telling her how I do not care to be on this earth right now. Since my mom passed I have had no joy and unending grief, sorrow, physical, mental and emotional pain. But I do not have a suicidal bone in my body. It is not written into my DNA. So I joke that I’m stuck. Besides, I’m a coward.
People talk about suicide as being a cowardly act. I think those people who endeavor to take their lives, in some sense, may be quite brave. Perhaps they are endowed with strength of character I do not have. Who am I to judge?
My friend then told me that suicide was written into her DNA. That she seriously thought about it, but then tossed the idea aside after consideration. She spoke humorously of taking a knife out of the dishwasher to see what it felt like against her skin, only to realize it was a spatula. She did this twice and we both laughed heartily. Knowing her and her suffering, it did not surprise me, her thoughts of suicide. Both that she considered it and then tossed the idea aside after two spatula attempts! Fortunately, she also had support.
Although a little humor in the moment can help to lighten the mood, I am not making light of suicide and those ailed by the thoughts and those suffering because people close to them have taken that action. There is a mental health epidemic. Or perhaps there is a lack of understanding mental health issues epidemic. And we, the people of the earth, need more help to listen and embrace and hold and hug each other with all our woes and pain. Helping ourselves when we feel closed doors, and listening to those who need a ready ear, reaching out across the ocean and airwaves to those who can simply be with us, or who we can be with, without pushing or prodding, or thinking we know more. To bear witness to the struggles of another or of our own, present to a person’s pain or of our own, going into the wilderness of soul and loss and terror with another human being without thinking we have to know the way out or find their way out. But to just be with them, not judging them nor feeling responsible for them. But to love and listen and love and listen in our personal, individual and collective times of need until we suture the hurt in our hearts and restore the peace to our souls.
I do not know what lies on the other side for those who leave early by their own hands. Whether they are young or old, and opting out of a life filled with physical, mental, emotional or financial challenges. I do know I have found compassion for those who choose to go home and rest early, who choose their deaths and the timing of it. Perhaps once “over there,” wherever there is, they’d reconsider and say, oops, made a mistake, but it’s too late. We will not ever know. And in the grace of that unknown, whether it is a fierce grace or a grace filled with peace and joy, I bow and lift my cup and cheer and say I hope you had the most beautiful welcome home, my dear.
One recent morning, early before the sun rose, my mother came to me and told me everything I feel is okay, everything I am going through is fine. “Be however you are,” she says. My mother goes on to tell that me I am so loved beyond loved, so loved beyond loved. Indeed the day before, I wondered if I was normal at all, if this was normal at all, how amazingly not just sad I feel but sometimes depressed and oppressed. People do not help. In this terrible grief state, still quite in shock, many push and prod you to be something other than you are as if to say, “It is not normal” or “Hurry up and finish grieving.” Or they ask how are you? Hoping for a different answer than the one you gave the day before and the day before that. Or they tell you that you are bringing the soul or spirit of your mother down. Trying to lift you up by making you feel guilty? Laughable! All laughable!
You cannot bring down the Enlightened Ones, of which my mother is one. And then my mom is right there saying it is all okay and that everything I feel and move through is okay and that I am so loved. That is my mom through and through. And her love, such love makes me weep. That she is not here in the physical makes me weep. It makes me weep because everyone makes everything so wrong in this society and the love is so lacking and she was the only one, along with my dad, who loved me in that way. And it just makes me weep for what is lacking.
Many people cannot handle being with other people who struggle. Who are so sad, so lonely, so depressed, so scared, who feel hurt and wounded. That is why some of us who grieve deeply, who suffer with traumatic loss or post traumatic stress or who suffer in any way often hide— sometimes in full public view—or we go into a cave licking our wounds until we are strong enough to survive. Being locked in loneliness can increase one’s sense of isolation. Having to tend to one’s self all alone or knowing there are too few to support you can increase the suffering and pain. While suicide is not my path, perhaps these are some contributing factors as to why people leave early, the desperation, the sense of despair, the sense of no hope and no way out. But I don’t really know. There may be a million reasons unique to each person that I or we will not ever know.
Some of you who have left this world by your own hands, I have met. And many of you touched my life, but I will not ever know or meet you here. So until we greet, when I come home years from now, I thank you for the life you have given to Earth and to us all. I hope that you are smiling and will keep inspiring us all to live well, to live fully, even amidst our pain. To live authentically, learning to love our selves, to find deep rest amidst the turmoil, again and again.
I salute you all who are reading this now. I honor your lives and all that you go and move through. I wish you love. Like my mom coming to tell me that I am so loved beyond loved, I wish for you to remember that someone somewhere on Earth or in the Stars loves you, and that you are loved beyond love, loved beyond love, loved beyond love.
~ W. Elizabeth Welles