The power of connection and caring

handsofchakraenergy-greenElizabeth, a mental health worker, arrives in Nepal immediately after the earthquake. There was total chaos. The ground was literally not stable as it shifted with tumbling rubble and aftershocks.

The first person Elizabeth meets is Prem, a young man looking lost and bereft. “Where are you going?” she asks.

“To the river to kill myself. Both my parents were killed in the earthquake. There is no reason for me to live,” Prem replies.

“Oh, no. You are coming with me. We will stay together until you feel safe,” Elizabeth states.

Prem follows Elizabeth and they set up a tarp shelter held down by rocks. He stays for 24 hours and tells Elizabeth, “I feel safe now.” They exchange contact information and Prem promises to text regularly. And he does.

Weeks later, Prem calls Elizabeth and happily announces, “My parents are alive! I found them in a tarp hospital some distance away. They are safe and alive. You saved my life. You saved their happiness. I am only alive because of you.”

Prem continued to text Elizabeth every day for many months to let her know how he was doing. We never know exactly how life will unfold nor understand the unique difference we can make in another’s life and how one chance meeting saved a life.

The many faces of suicide

purplenightscapeSuicide is many things.

Suicide is not a sin, from my point of view. Some religions espouse hellfire and damnation; others ponder the intention of the suicidal individual. Since I see all of us on a path to open our hearts, expand our consciousness, and operate from our Best or Higher Selves, I do not believe that the Divine—in any form or moniker—is looking to punish us for being human. The Divine is all about love—unconditional love—and helping each of us find the pathway to that conclusion. Individuals who take their life by suicide are not punished. (Quite frankly, haven’t they lived through enough hell?) That is old school thinking to me. If you believe in heaven, they are in heaven. If you believe in past lives, their souls are being readied for their next assignment. Where we all can agree is that the soul has moved out of the constraints and limitations of the 3D world and moved to another non-physical dimension.

Suicide is not a crime. (For the record, suicide is no longer illegal in the Western world, where suicide has been decriminalized. There are, however, legal ramifications to assisted suicide and the like).

Some say the weak choose suicide. I disagree. “Weak” is not the operative word here.

Suicide can be a tipping point of pain or shame, a plea for help, a response to mental illness and haywire neurochemistry, as well as the last gasp of despair and resignation. Suicide can also be an impulsive mistake, a planned ending of life, a shredded soul, the death of the ego, or the ultimate act of rage and fury. (That rage and fury is often the much wounded child-self battling mightily for control or screaming in enormous pain.)

Suicide can be a choice that we may or may not understand on the 3D level, such as a teaching tool for our loved ones or choosing to do profound work from the Other Side.

Suicide can be a part of our destiny, our soul path toward healing.

Suicide can be the result of soul loss.

Suicide can be a game-changer. After the loss of a loved one to suicide, your view on life changes. Life becomes more fragile, more precious, and more cherished. This holds true for those who have attempted suicide as well. For them, the attempt may lead to a spurt of fresh energy and a re-engagement with life.

And suicide is definitely a societal, and, therefore, a political and moral issue. We human beings—and our organizations, corporations, or governments—can be terribly self-serving, ruthless, abusive, and tyrannical toward others. Acts of violence, war, and exploitation damage and destroy the very souls of our being. We lose ourselves and the meaning of our lives. Suicidal thoughts and actions are a part of the collateral damage of these polarizations.

Further, suicide can be a powerful teacher. It teaches us the great lesson of compassion. It opens us in ways we never thought possible. Suicide asks us to accept a loved one’s choice and circumstance. Suicide asks us to forgive ourselves for our perceived wrongdoings, including our inability to prevent our loved one from harm. Suicide requires us to face our guilt, anger, and shame. Suicide asks us to accept the unacceptable, the inconceivable, the horrific, and make peace with it. Suicide asks us to live with an open heart. This means no judgment, no castigation, and no punishment. We see one another through a lens of acceptance. We allow each other to be who we are—in all of our shortcomings and crazy-making ways as well as all of our idiosyncratic wonderfulness.

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.

 

There is only one response

Too often suicide is met with judgment, criticism, shame, and taboo. Suicide is the result of a confluence of stressors, circumstances, and experiences. It is an individual response to pain of every shape, size, and dimension. Suicide leaves a rippling wake of shock, horror, and grief. Isn’t it time we pull suicide out of the shadows and meet it with compassion?

darkblue-compassion

Suicide Notes — Voices from the Past

The sadness will last forever.

—Vincent Van Gogh

I am now about to make the great adventure.
I cannot endure this agonizing pain any longer.
It is all over my body. Neither can I face the impending blindness.
I pray the Lord my soul to take. Amen.

—Clara Blandick, age 82,
Auntie Em in The Wizard of Oz

I feel certain that I am going mad again. I feel we can’t go through another of those terrible times. And I shan’t recover this time.
I begin to hear voices.

—Virginia Woolf

I must end it. There’s no hope left. I’ll be at peace.
No one had anything to do with this. My decision totally.

—Freddie Prinze, actor

To my friends: my work is completed. Why wait?

—George Eastman, founder of Eastman Kodak

My pain is not caused because I am gay.
My pain was caused by how I was treated
because I am gay.

—Eric James Borges, part of the suicide note
from a gay, teen filmmaker

Understanding teen suicide helps make sense of the heartache

n-lonely-sad-woman-large570Suicide is heartbreaking. And suicide is especially crushing when a teenager has made the lethal choice to end their life. What happened? As the adults in their lives, we cannot fathom how things went so bad so fast. We feel so certain there could have been another way, a different choice. Yes, we might have been mad, but love comes first, above all, and we would have helped you.

And so begins the hell for parents and loved ones of a teen suicide. You are full of questions and “what ifs,” reeling in shock and disbelief. You rethink everything. What did you miss? Were there signs? You thought it was normal teenage angst and withdrawal. You had no idea it was this bad.

Or maybe you did. Maybe your teen’s life was a maelstrom of chaos and upheaval. He or she kept unraveling, becoming riskier, angrier, withdrawn or hell-bent on self-destruction. You were considered the enemy. Communication had shut down. You felt powerless. It was hard to recognize this snarky stranger who avoided eye contact with you at all possible costs as your child.

The teen years are an emotional roller coaster

Teenage years, by definition, are tumultuous. The brain is not fully developed. Hormones reconfigure bodies and play havoc with emotions. Psychologically, teens need to individuate — pull away from their parents to become their own person. These years are physically, emotionally, mentally and socially difficult. They can be hard to negotiate. Teens can be extreme and dramatic — and their parents, too, who wonder who they have become in trying to manage and protect their teenager. It’s a highly sensitive and volatile stage of life.

Please click this link to read the remainder of this article which is a part of “Frame of Mind,” a new month-long series focused on teens and mental health by the Huffington Post Canada:

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/adele-mcdowell/understanding-teen-suicide_b_11833820.html

RIP: The collateral heartache of trauma and violence

This week, there have been three suicides as a result of trauma and violence, two student survivors of the Parkland, FL school shooting and one parent who lost a child in the Newtown school shooting. This is beyond heartbreaking for both families and school communities who have struggled valiantly to deal with the reality and aftermath of  their respective horrors.

Generally speaking, suicide can be a tipping point of pain or shame; a plea for help; a response to mental illness and biological vulnerabilities; the last gasp of despair and resignation; a consequence of hopelessness and isolation; an impulsive mistake; a conscious ending of life; the ultimate act of rage and fury; the result of unabated terror; a response to abandonment; the repercussion of accumulated stressors; as well as collateral damage from violence, addiction, and trauma.

In these cases, it is the collateral damage from the trauma of the school shootings and the ensuing complicated grief that most certainly influenced these suicides.

This collateral damage can leave you reeling with extreme emotional pain, gutted by the traumatic endings of  your loved ones’ lives and a high probability of survivor’s guilt.

Deep, intractable, dark-holed depression and breath-inhibiting, complicated grief can leave you in a tight, cramped, airless space where you can feel stuck, profoundly tired, deeply detached and disconnected. You can hurt all over. Nothing makes sense. Your thinking becomes binary, right or wrong, good or bad. In a word, boxed.

You can feel utterly despondent and despairing. Grief can sucker punch you in unexpected waves and leave you swimming in tears. Your sense of self has melted. There is overriding pain, conflicting emotions and, often, a continuous replay of the traumatic and violent specifics that leave you helpless and in agony for your lost loved one. Further, as with all grief and trauma, each experience opens the door to the memory of other experience of loss and trauma.

These three suicides serve as a highly charged cautionary tale that complicated grief and trauma leave our loved ones dangerously close to the edge. Clearly, it’s not easy. It is challenging and calls for all of our compassion, understanding and support of those who have found themselves walking this very challenging (in all possible ways) and, possibly, lethal path.

Suicide is not a natural response. If I were to put a pillow over your face, you would instinctively fight me. The pain, the big grief and the trauma had to be so big for each of these individuals to make the choice they did.

May all three of these survivors of the unthinkable find their respective long-lost peace and be held in the light.

 

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

 

 

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.