Last week was a particularly difficult time for folks in the small town that I live in. One of the young people in our high school committed suicide. Yes, I know you hear of things like that everyday on the news, but did you actually know the person who took their life? In our town everyone knows each other or at least someone who is connected. Maybe we don’t know each other intimately, but we know each other’s face when we meet at a ball game or at the grocery store or pass each other on a street.
It’s not as disturbing to think about suicide when it is at a distance. But when it is up close and personal, it rattles you – unnerves you.
I shared my thoughts about the event in a letter to the editor of our weekly newspaper and on Facebook. Over 430 people “like(d)” the post and over 330 of them “share(d)” it on their own timeline. I’m not as flattered by that as I am moved by that. It simply says that people were eager to find someone to speak to their own sense of shock and fear.
Because suicide touches every fabric of humanity, I wanted to share this article with all those in the blogging world in hopes they, too, would find it worth sharing with others. Feel free to reblog it and send it through this avenue.
My hope is that in some way it might prevent one person from needlessly taking their life.
Once again the Grim Reaper has used his wicked scythe to cut short the life of one of the young people in our community. A blanket of sadness envelopes the hearts of everyone whose life was touched by this child.
In the hallways of our school young people avert their red-rimmed eyes from making contact with each other, fearing that the combined grief of theirs with another friend will completely drown them. In their hearts are the questions of why? should I have known it was coming? could I have done something? did it happen because of something I did or didn’t do?
But in the minds of a few young people is the acknowledgment that suicide makes sense to them, that it is a viable alternative to the pain they live in on a daily basis. This is one of the scary side effects of suicide, i.e. it takes aberrant behavior and makes it appear normal. And in our small, close-knit community we have had more than our fair share of suicides.
In fear and panic, parents fill the screens of our phones with texts and our computers with messages on Facebook, realizing that this could have been their child who chose to die.
Grandparents, who have seen senseless death too many times, drop to their knees and pray for protection for their grandchildren.
Our town rises up in anger and indignation, shouting, “Something has to be done to prevent this from happening again!”
People ask me, “What can I do or say that will help?” We want to DO something so that the feeling of helplessness in the pit of our stomach will be assuaged. But the truth is, there is nothing you can do or say that will take away the pain and sadness, neither yours nor someone else’s. This is sad because it’s supposed to be.
There are no simple answers to complex problems – suicide being one of them. I certainly don’t have the answers. But here are some things I do know:
- Our world needs to be more compassionate and less caustic. Dividing over our differences with each other isn’t nearly as important as embracing in spite of our differences.
- You can’t tell a child too often that they are loved – even if they aren’t your child.
- “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is a LIE! Words matter. Before you say something to someone you are upset with, ask yourself if you would like for someone to say a similar thing to your child, or your sister or brother.
- Don’t assume you know why things happen. Causation is rarely linear. More often it is circular.
- If someone you know is hurting inside and you don’t know what to do, TELL someone. Tell a parent, a teacher, your preacher or youth minister, the guidance counselor. And if none of them do anything, keep telling people until someone does do something. Just don’t keep it to yourself.
- If you read these words and you are thinking about ending your life, let me tell you that, as awful as you feel right now, this won’t last forever. My advantage on you is that I have walked in the shadows and thought dark thoughts like you, but I held on and the sun finally did shine again. I have lived sixty years and seen many people standing on the edge of the cliff ready to jump, but they paused, took a breath, and stepped back from oblivion and found again a purpose for living. I promise you, it will happen for you, too.