(trigger warning, this blog post is about suicide)
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but I find no rest. (from Psalm 22)
I’m beginning to think that suicide is like polio, a disease that strikes us when we are least expecting it, with no warning and total devastation, except…we don’t have a Jonas Salk. And rarely do we get the chance for an iron lung.
I first learned of suicide as a “thing” when I was 11 years old. Someone’s uncle had died by suicide and I remember being mystified. Shortly after that the hit TV series M*A*S*H came out and the theme song, “Suicide is Painless” became a tune that we all hummed…without even realizing the words. And then when I was about 13 a close family member made their first suicide attempt…and I began life under the pall of the suicide threat for the next 30 years. My family member finally found the right kind of help and is still with us… for today. My own journey with suicidality lasted from 1996-1998; that was two very scary years that I hope never to repeat. With the right medication, a great psychiatrist and a good divorce attorney I got through it. I’m one of the lucky ones.
Our children are killing themselves. There’s no easy way to say that. As a Trauma Chaplain I held the hands of too many parents whose children had died by suicide. In the shock of the moment they were, and may very well still be, completely perplexed. On a rare occasion a family member would admit that there had been multiple attempts, but for the most part it was a first, and horrifically regrettable, only attempt.
We have absolutely no idea why the human brain decides to self-destruct. We know some of the stories; bullying, relationship failure, financial failure, addiction, pharmaceuticals, school failure, a host of mental illness diagnosis; but in the end we do not know what causes the human brain to choose death. It seems to simply self-destruct.
As I sit by my window in the early morning hours waiting for the sun to rise and the snow to start, I open my hometown paper…and there’s another one. 30 years old, a fellow classmate of my nephews from back home. Gone too soon. I text my daughter-in-law just to say hi…but really…it’s to check in…and I find myself humming an all too familiar tune…”Suicide is painless It brings on many changes”…but we can no longer take or leave it if we please…Amen.
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