I’ve read of the suicides of many people in the past, and no such story is a good story. Whether it’s a person who’s in the public eye or a person who was hardly noticed, we lose a person. A mother devastated by her toddler’s death. An actor who suffered in bruising isolation. A seminarian whose struggle was largely unseen. A doctor who couldn’t continue under mental anguish. A pastor who was overwhelmed by everything.
The loss is aggravated by the circumstances surrounding the death. Those left to respond rotate a series of questions, all of them in big-deal categories. We question life, ours and theirs. We wonder about God and faith. We query our social relationships and relatives. We turn to the tragic circumstances that form around an individual and try to see them.
Here are a few things I think are worth doing–commitments worth making–when someone commits suicide, in no particular order. They sound too general because I’ve written them about “a person” and I fully intend for that be come across as a person who comes to mind, a particular person, a designated individual or individuals who you love:
- We commit to being and not only doing, to tunneling into the beautiful wonder that is the self and to emerging from that wonder with a stubbornness for searching for the same in others.
- We commit to grieving, feeling as fully as possible, the deep fissures in us when someone kills herself or himself.
- We commit to becoming more human by relating to individuals differently and based upon their uniqueness all the time.
- We commit to the hard work of paying attention to what turns a person, lifts up a person, spoils a person, hurts a person.
- We commit to loving as much as possible in the present moment.
- We commit to getting mental and emotional support for ourselves and our communities in the forms of clergy who are permanently slanted in the direction of full liberation; therapists who are helpful in pursing with us our own deep change in the face of psychologically rough worlds; spiritual directors who can listen us into freedom as we journey into the company of God together; family members who embrace us unconditionally and love us lavishly; and friends who are just like family and who stay in place when family diminishes, drops, or dies.
- We commit to asking better questions, even when the question is “How are you?” and staying around for the response.
- We commit to telling another person how they impacted us, how we felt because of something they did or said, and how we are changed specifically because they matter.
- We commit to standing close when a person feels abandoned, reminding them by our physical presence when our unheard words ring hollow that we are with them.
- We commit to responding after any death with a voracious invitation to our own special life, to cultivating healthier relationships, to dealing with the destructive dynamics in our own lives, to being different and better people, and to advocating for everybody’s healthcare and self-care.
Also, if you’re in Chicago, consider attending the National Day of Solidarity to Prevent Physician Suicide.