Held and remembered

The other day, a small rectangle of a yellowed newspaper article, taped onto a cut piece of an index card, fell out of book that was a pass-along from a friend. I was touched by the compassion of these words, the knowing of the hold and pull of grief on the heart as well as the talisman these words served for my beloved, long-time friend:

“You begin to realize that everyone has a tragedy, and that if he doesn’t, he will. You recognize how much is hidden beneath the small courtesies and civilities of everyday existence. Deep sorrow and traces of great loss run through everyone’s lives, and yet they let others step into the elevator first, wave them ahead in a line of traffic, smile and greet their children and inquire about their lives, and never let on for a second that they, too, have lain awake at night in longing and regret, that they, too, have cried until it seemed impossible that one person could hold so many tears, that they, too, keep a picture of someone locked in their heart and bring it out in quiet, solitary moments to caress and remember.” (Author unknown)

The second piece of paper to flutter out of the book was a post-it reading “Be here now.” Again, how apropos amidst the bittersweet knot of loss to be reminded to stay present, carrying on with our hearts full of love and memory. As our unknown author says, “to keep a picture of someone locked in their heart and bring it out in quiet, solitary moments to caress and remember.”

I have two thoughts: One, a life well lived, clearly carrying forward the memory of our loved one, is the greatest homage to the one(s) we have lost. And two, the ones who are no longer physically present are most certainly present within our hearts and our souls. I often feel they are the quiet guides who help us along the way.

We remember. We hold. We go forward with our someone in our heart.

 

Hope or a sky without stars

“…when she had those dreams at night, he was there, as if he had never died, although she knew, even in the dream, that he had. One day she would join him, she knew, whatever people said about how we came to an end when we took our last breath. Some people mocked you if you said that you joined others when your time came. Well, they could laugh, those clever people, but we surely had to hope, and a life without hope of any sort was no life: it was a sky without stars, a landscape of sorrow and emptiness.”


― Alexander McCall SmithBlue Shoes and Happiness

Griefwalker: a film

A touching and beautiful Canadian documentary (2008) on death and dying. This film runs 1 hour and 10 minutes.

This is from the Canadian National Film Board:

“This documentary introduces us to Stephen Jenkinson, once the leader of a palliative care counselling team at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital. Through his daytime job, he has been at the deathbed of well over 1,000 people. What he sees over and over, he says, is “a wretched anxiety and an existential terror” even when there is no pain. Indicting the practice of palliative care itself, he has made it his life’s mission to change the way we die – to turn the act of dying from denial and resistance into an essential part of life.”

Here is the link to the film:

Griefwalker

 

 

Go gently with your big heart

Go gently with your big heart. It is not a curse or a burden, but a gift that allows you to hold the universe in your being with love.

Go gently with your big heart. It is the doorway to mystery, the path to mastery and the road to compassion.

Go gently with your big heart. It is the opening that allows you to be your best, reach your fullest and connect with the divine.

Go gently with your big heart, it is the answer to your prayers.

 

“Too many things are occurring

for even a big heart to hold.”

from an essay by W.B. Yeats

Suicide and Soul Loss

Not all suicides are defined by mental illness, substance abuse, and unrelenting pain. There are many ways in which we see and interpret the world. From time immemorial, the soul, our spark of being, has been viewed as our primary force of life. It is what animates us.

If we have been abused, humiliated, oppressed, terrorized, tortured, traumatized, or hurt physically or emotionally in any powerful way, our soul can be crushed. Our life force leaks out. We are no longer our whole selves. We have lost some of our light and we are hunkered down in a protective, survival mode. If the soul loss is profound, we become numb, hollow, and begin to move through life in a disconnected, zombie-like way. We see profound soul loss in the eyes of our military, childhood sexual abuse survivors, and the severely bullied, to name a few.

Soul loss should also be considered a primary cause for suicide. Soul loss does not necessarily preclude the diagnostic criteria, but, instead, often views the diagnostic criteria as further evidence of soul loss.

The Indigenous world has long honored the soul. Illness, depression, trauma, and other Western-labeled maladies are explained as soul loss.

If the soul is tended, then the body, mind, and heart can heal.

To explain further, here is an example:

In South America, a young girl is no longer speaking. She has become totally silent. Her parents take her to doctors and specialists, but to no avail. As a last resort, they drive to a village in the country and take their daughter to a local shaman. He tells them to leave their daughter with his tribe for the week. The shaman then instructs the women to bathe the girl daily and, while bathing her, they are to sing her healing songs. At the end of the week, the girl begins to speak and tells of the rape she had recently endured. She had refound her voice and was healed.

I suggest that soul loss runs parallel to psychoneuroimmunology (PNI), which looks at the mind-body (and often, spirit) interaction. Science does recognize that our thoughts and feelings influence our well-being. As a result, we now see more holistic treatments, an awareness of the role of the soul, as well as an acceptance of assorted energy modalities to help bring the individual back to wholeness.

Understanding the ramifications of soul loss is an important factor in looking at suicide and suicide prevention. If we don’t feed our souls, we lose our animation and our energies dissipate. We would be well served to consider soul loss when assessing suicidality.

A sin, really?

I read an excerpt from a book by an esteemed medical professional who has been an advocate for the holistic and metaphysical for decades. This book relates a discussion of sin with his guide, who allowed that “self-suicide” (his unusual word choice) is a sin. I so disagree, adamantly and viscerally disagree.

Where does all this judgment come from? This is not sounding God-like or part of higher consciousness, much less soul development. If you believe in past lives, more than likely your soul experienced a suicide.

The Divine is full of compassion, not judgment. And, by the way, the word “sin” comes from the Aramaic meaning to “miss the mark.” When we struggle and try to find our way through our fears, conditioning, reactions, and wounds, we often miss the mark. Hello, being human. Earth school is where we learn and develop and, hopefully, expand our consciousness to the degree that we perceive the oneness in all and respond accordingly.

Suicide is not a sin. Not only do I feel that down to the marrow of my bones, I have had confirmation with the spirit world and deceased souls. Yes, I talk to dead people.

On the 3D level, suicide, first and foremost, is about pain, pain of all levels and intensities. Suicide also speaks to trauma, substance abuse, mental health, emotional alienation, guilt, shame, neurochemistry and genetic fragilities. Suicide is a response to a confluence of factors that lead to a tipping point where the choice is made, be it well-considered or impulsive.

On the soul level, suicide can be a choice to do important work from the other side, leave compassion as a legacy, re-arrange dynamics and situations as part of a soul contract, a death of the ego, a teaching lesson and much more.

Judgment around suicide is hurtful. Condemnation around suicide serves no purpose than to further alienate us from one another and the divine. Compassion is the only response to suicide.

Allow me to repeat: suicide is not a sin.

The Path of Grief

Grief is akin to putting on your hip waders and walking into the deep, murky water of your psyche, the home of your inner life, where there are churning emotions and roiling thoughts along with forgotten bits and pieces. The footing is rocky, uneven, and unpredictable. You never quite know what will slide up against you or tangle your footing. There is so much you cannot see or discern beneath the waters. You move slowly and tentatively forward, sweeping debris and sludge away from your person, and choking back tears. Sometimes, you stand stock-still until there is enough fortitude to take another step. It’s an arduous, crazy-making process. And it’s a game-changer, too. Your worldview is forever changed, and your heart is re-assembled.

 

Remembering the gifts of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain

Kate Spade, the American fashion designer, made people happy, very happy, with her iconic line of color and playfulness. She was known for her fresh, feminine, and, oftentimes, whimsical take on accessories and clothing. Kate Spade made getting dressed fun. For many, acquiring a Kate Spade piece was a rite of passage.

Kate Spade was a woman who was not afraid to wear vibrant pink tights and shoes with a black and white ensemble at the Met gala. Her friends, family and associates found her incandescent. She was a bright light who was full of fun, generosity and genuine kindness. It would be fair to say that those in her orbit would describe her as one of a kind.

So, how does somehow who exudes such happiness and joie de vive consider suicide as an option? Wouldn’t devoted loved ones, success, popularity and wide-open doors for creative expression insulate her from such an act? Alas, no. All of those worldly accomplishments, gifts, talents and support are not a guarantor from the ravages of psychic anguish, biochemical propensities, genetic vulnerabilities and mental illness.

Kate Spade had a history of mental illness. She was a woman who struggled with her inner demons. Curiously, she had focused on Robin Williams’ suicide. Perhaps, Spade felt a resonance with Williams’ pain (which we later learned was exacerbated by a dire diagnosis of Lewy’s dementia). Both had sought treatment; both were known to have suffered with severe and longstanding depression and anxiety, a devastating combo that can bring you to your knees, time and again.

And within 72 hours of Spade’s death by suicide, we learn that Anthony Bourdain (whose history of substance abuse implies a strong likelihood of depression and anxiety) had taken his life – in the same manner as Spade. We are shell-shocked and reeling. How could this happen? He was our irrepressible, fearless, ever-on-the-go, globe-trotting, culture-loving foodie who made the world more accessible through his travel shows and writings. Bourdain was an intrepid pioneer and straight-shooting chef. He was a master storyteller who encouraged us to step out and step forward. We were right there with him enjoying the yummy noodles in broth. He opened us up to new experiences we never would have tried on our own. He broke bread around the world and, in doing so, Bourdain created international communion.

Bourdain was a man of passions, most recently with the #MeToo movement. Bourdain came from a cut-throat food industry, which historically was known for its less-than-ideal treatment of women. He had come to realize, after the fact and in light of #MeToo, that there were many female colleagues who had experienced harassment and assault in the kitchen and he had come to the painful realization they had not viewed him, then, as the ally he became today.

Anthony Bourdain conveyed openness, adventure, directness and strength. He was akin to a global cultural cowboy, rounding up adventures, taste treats and conversations.

Kate Spade projected happiness, confidence, creativity and individuality. Like the fairy godmother who could snap her fingers, she created magic that honored the feminine and the playful.

Both of these highly creative, very sensitive and aware individuals were complex, multi-dimensional human beings. They knew happiness, laughter and light; they also knew darkness, vulnerability and pain. Perhaps, that is why both were so good at what they did.

Both Spade and Bourdain struck a nerve with us. And we responded wildly. We loved their work. We loved their signature styles and the way they embraced the world. Through their creative expressions, we felt they understood us and because of that, their deaths feel personal. We will miss Bourdain’s adventures and his tell-it-like-it-is commentary, and we will miss the je ne sais quoi of color and design that was uniquely Kate Spade.

In their respective deaths, Spade and Bourdain also made a difference. The one and only “positive” from their celebrity suicides is that their deaths – and within such a short timeframe as well – made the world take notice and be mindful, yet again, of the global epidemic of suicide. Their respective deaths accentuate the reality that no matter how much success and fame someone has enjoyed, no one is impervious to the strangleholds of deep depression, the terror of unremitting anxiety, the tight, self-defeated thinking that can further shatter perspective and break a life. Sometimes too much pain is simply too much.

Suicide is a counter-intuitive choice. If I were to hold a pillow over your face, instinctively you would fight for me breath. So imagine the intensity of the psychic pain and the density of the heart for both Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain to make that final choice to find relief from their internal torment.

Let us not judge; let us remember that being human is challenging. Let us be a little kinder, more compassionate, more adventurous, less judgmental and, of course, more colorful as we go forward.

Please know, Kate and Anthony, that you both are loved, admired and appreciated for all that you shared with us. Each of you made our worlds a bit brighter, more interesting and expanded with possibilities. You both have been great gifts, and you have made a difference.

May you both rest in peace.

Why understanding is helpful

After you have lost  a loved one to suicide, you feel anything but powerful or strong. Most likely, you are at your most vulnerable, full of heartbreak and deep grief.

Suicide leaves a trail of uncertainties and questions. Knowledge can help make some sense of the unimaginable. When we learn more, we have a basis for comparison. We realize, perhaps, that our situation is not so unusual. Plus, we can accept more fully the biochemical or psychosocial elements that have led to a suicidal action. When we understand more, we are no longer so confused, confounded, or upset. We find steadier footing, and we find ourselves more emotionally and mentally stable. Indeed, knowledge can serve as a powerful healing ally.

Peace can never be achieved by force.
It can only be achieved by understanding.
Albert Einstein