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.

“For Grief” by John O’Donohue

This beautiful poem is by the late, great poet, philosopher and holy man, John O’Donohue. His words safely and soulfully wrap the tear-stained in understanding and comfort. In his inimitable way, John blesses those who know all too well the deep well of grief.

For Grief
     by John O’Donohueleaves water light

When you lose someone you love,
Your life becomes strange,
The ground beneath you becomes fragile,
Your thoughts make your eyes unsure;
And some dead echo drags your voice down
Where words have no confidence.

Your heart has grown weary with loss;
And though this loss has wounded others too,
No one knows what has been taken from you
When the silence of absence deepens.

Flickers of guilt kindle regret
For all that was left unsaid or undone.

There are days when you wake up happy;
Again inside the fullness of life,
Until the moment breaks
And you are thrown back
Onto the black tide of loss.

Days when you have your heart back,
You are able to function well
Until in the middle of work or encounter,
Suddenly with no warning,
You are ambushed by grief.

It becomes hard to trust yourself.
All you can depend on now is that
Sorrow will remain faithful to itself.

More than you, it knows its way
And will find the right time
To pull and pull the rope of grief
Until the coiled hill of tears
Has reduced to its last drop.

Gradually, you will learn acquaintance
With the invisible form of your departed;
And when the work of grief is done,
The wound of loss will heal
And you will have learned
To wean your eyes
From the gap in the air
And be able to enter the hearth
In your soul where your loved one
Has awaited your return
All the time.

I can still see you

ATT00034If I were to have a gravestone, preferably under a beautiful tree that flowers or, at least near a Chinese restaurant, I would want the gravestone to be etched with these words: I CAN STILL SEE YOU.

Of course, this makes me laugh. It has for days as I have been entertaining myself with this very thought. My overactive imagination conjures up this scene where you visit me at my gravesite and I see you and envision that we converse energetically. At first, you are surprised and somewhat dumbfounded, but I know so much about our history that ultimately you are convinced that a) this is real or b) you are having a lucid dream or c) you are playing make-believe and it’s kind of fun.

You see, I believe that our souls are eternal and our bodies are a bit like complicated robes that we shed upon death. The brain goes dark, but the consciousness lives.

For the past few weeks I have being seeing faces again. Yes, again. When I started writing Making Peace with Suicide, I would see faces in the leaves of a tree outside my window, on the tiles of my shower, and framed in groups on my carpet. Most recently, I have had visitors around my bed in the middle of the night. My feeling is that they are looking for relief by way of connection or, possibly, understanding.

When I ask what they want, I hear, “We want to be heard.” Ok, let’s proceed. This is the gist and sense of what I have heard:

• Some loved ones who have died by suicide have expressed regret that they left such heartache and turmoil. They did not want to cause you pain; they simply wanted to end their pain.

• For some of the younger ones who have left by suicide, there is surprise and, even, regret that they are no longer here on earth. Their choice was impulsive and, often, influenced by drugs and alcohol.

• There are some who are wildly relieved to be off this mortal coil. They were ready to go. They feel complete and satisfied with nary a doubt or regret.

• And there are some who orchestrated (on a soul level) their passing and they are doing huge works of service on our behalf from the Other Side.

Our souls have unique contracts and trajectories of growth and development. Life – and death – are not always what they seem at first glance.

So, imagine, if you will, that your deceased loved one can still see you and be there with you. And imagine that your loved one is holding you close as you take your next steps on your healing path.

It’s a lovely thought, isn’t it? And, some of us, believe that it is true.

Does the soul remember?

 green-swirls1-150x150There is much research being done around past-life memories and experiences. People undergo past life regressions with trained regression therapists or they have spontaneous memories. Perhaps, they have knowledge or a skill set for which they were not trained or a huge fear without any rational basis. Or they meet someone with whom they have a meaningful connection that feels timeless and familiar. There are those moments of déjà vu when you are certain you have previously experienced what is seemingly new to you now. It can be disconcerting because it is all-too familiar. You never done this; you have never been here; and you have never seen this before. How did you know that the bakery in Prague was on that little street? How did you know how to repair an antique lock?

In my own life, I remember as a girl of about 11 years of age traveling with my grandmother, mother, sister, and aunt. We were having lunch at a restaurant that was outside, on a tiled patio, atop a mountain. I was quietly freaking out as I had a distinct memory of being there before. My sister, then a brother, had fallen off the mountain and I, also a male, was desperately trying to hold onto his hand and pull him up to safety. I vividly remembered how he had slipped out of my hand and fell, presumably to his death. I had never been to this part of the world before and what I felt was exceedingly real and visceral.

I have a godchild who has never lived near the ocean in her life. However, since she was quite small – and up to the present day — she has had a huge terror of being eaten by a shark. Where do these fears come from? I think the soul remembers.

The Leiningers’ son, James began having nightmares and past-life memories at the very early age of two years old. His experiences forced the family on an unexpected odyssey of healing. Years ago, I was given a copy of the book, Soul Survivor: The Reincarnation of a World War II Fighter Pilot to review and I found their story worth sharing. Here is a bit of what I wrote:

Do you believe in reincarnation? Past lives? A regular, hard-working, church-going couple, Andrea and Bruce Leininger were faced with these very questions when their two-year-old son, James, began have unremitting nightmares and shouting the words, “Plane on fire! Little man can’t get out!”

Soul Survivor: The Reincarnation of a World War II Fighter Pilot is the chronicle of their odyssey as this everyday family struggled to make sense of their son’s constant, shrieking nightmares, out-of-context words and obsession with planes. The book details their persistent and tenacious exploration which leads to far-reaching, soul-satisfying results.

The Leininger family relocates to Louisiana for Bruce’s new job, another move in a string of job-related hops. Andrea determinedly works on their house to make it a home for their happy threesome. She is more than ready to put down permanent roots. Their only child, and their pride and joy, begins having nightmares.

Initially, the nightmares are attributed to the move and, then considered to be a stage, not so uncommon with small children. But the nightmares are loud, disruptive and disturbing. Andrea shares her concern with “the panel,” her mother and sisters who offer advice and solace. Her mother refers Andrea to the book, Children’s Past Lives by researcher, Carol Bowman, who confirms that James’ nightmares are, in fact, James reliving a past life experience.

With suggestions from Bowman, the frequency of the nightmares decreases. Conversely, James begins talking more about his past life. He mentions an individual’s name, a specific aircraft, and the name of his ship, the Natoma Bay. At three years of age, James begins to draw, in accurate detail, sea and air battles with aircraft details matching those used during WWII.

By four years old, James constructs his own cockpit and regularly enacts going through the pre-flight check-list. During a visit to a local air show, one of the Blue Angels asks James what he wants to be when he grows up, James responds, “I want to be an F-18 Super Hornet Pilot and then a Blue Angel pilot – the slot pilot.”

With every clue that young James offers, both parents look at one another wide-eyed wondering how their little boy could know what he knows. James’ father scours the Internet and finds, time after time, that his son’s WWII aviation knowledge is accurate.

All of this came to be when a two-year old boy began having unrelenting nightmares. The family’s first thought was certainly not past-lives, but their dedication in relieving their son’s pain led them to that conclusion.

Recently, a mom shared with me that her two-year old son announced at dinner that his grandfather had been his father. The family paid little attention and kept enjoying their meal. However, the mom had been told previously of the past-life relationship between her son and his grandfather and she felt her son confirmed the connection.

It is said that the veil is thinner with children. They still have one foot, so to speak, in the other realms and have had less time, comparatively speaking, on the physical plane. As a result, they remember more easily.