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.

 

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.

When you are ready, this can help you heal from a loss by suicide

Remember the theme song from the show M*A*S*H? (“Suicide is painless…”) Alas, that is so not the case.

Your loved one’s suicide is the day you stop taking a full breath; the day you are left holding your broken heart in your hands; the day time stands still; and, unfortunately, the day people talk about, avoid or even blame you.

Suicide leaves you, the surviving loved one, holding the bag of squirming emotions and memories. There is the taint and taboo, guilt and remorse, rage and despair, confusion and regret, and the shame or guilt that somehow — in some possible way — you are responsible. You are left in a wake of jumbled emotions and self-doubts.

Suicide turns your life upside down. You find yourself vibrating with shock, disbelief, grief and, most likely, trauma from what you witnessed or envisioned in your mind’s eye. It is an enormous challenge to find yourself again and reclaim your desire to live fully after such a devastating loss.

How do you make sense of this kind of heartbreak?

Read more here .

 

A very good ending

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 choice by Janie Brown

images (18)This is Janie Brown’s beautifully compassionate and loving response to a friend’s struggle with mental illness and later, suicide. The original piece was featured on Krista Tibbett’s “On Being” blog, where Janie Brown was a guest contributor.

Dearest you,

The phone message you left yesterday from an unidentified B&B somewhere on Vancouver Island said I would know by morning whether you had chosen to live or die. You said the pills were lined up, counted, on the dresser.

A month before when you were unraveling again, you asked us, your closest friends, what we thought about you choosing to end your life, and we all said the same thing: “You must be tired of it all after so many cycles of mental illness in your sixty-two years, but with medication and therapy you always get better.” We always had a “but,” a reason we wanted you to keep choosing life. We hadn’t accepted you had a terminal illness then, a terminal mental illness. If you had advanced cancer, we might not have tried so hard to encourage you to keep going, if you hadn’t wanted to.

Today, I know what I want. I want you to live so we’ll carry on being friends, as we have for twenty-five years. I want you to continue to sharpen my knives and bring me organic beef for the freezer when you come to town. I want to call and hear your business voice on the answering machine. I want to look across the room and feel your heart as wide as the universe as you play your ukulele with abandon, your voice belting out Bob Marley’s “No Woman, No Cry.” I want to feel your love for me, your deep caring that my life matters to you.

Most of all I want you to be happy.

But I know it’s not about what I want.

If you choose to live maybe you’ll find a sweet little home here in Vancouver just around the corner from us, and we can have dinners, and music nights, walks, and late-night conversations. We can work together, cook together, and drink good wine together. Ultimately, we would see each other through and out of this life.

If you choose to die tonight, I will carry no judgment, just a huge ache in my heart of missing you. You have lived a beautiful life, and a tough one. You have had to encompass more internally than anyone I have ever known, and I have nothing but admiration and respect for the way you have conducted your life. You are a good person. You have tried. You have succeeded on so many levels. I hope that if you choose to leave, you will truly know what a life of devoted service you’ve lived, and that you have loved, and that you have been loved in return.

Whether you choose to live or die today, I will always love you.

She chose to live that night. She said she was too scared to be alone, as she died.

A week later her psychiatrist and her closest friends encouraged her to go to a hospital where she would be kept safe from harming herself, and hopefully receive the treatment she needed to heal.

Even though she persuaded the occupational therapist to take her grocery shopping so she could make mulligatawny soup for the other in-patients (being a nutritionist, she worried the hospital food wouldn’t help them to get well); even though we snuck her out to a restaurant for a big salad, and a hearty glass of Cabernet Sauvignon against hospital regulations.

Even though we took a guitar and songbooks to the common room of the acute psychiatric unit, and sang together, and doors opened and patients peeked out, slowly sidling up to join the sing-a-long until an anxious nurse shut us down for fear of over-stimulating the patients.

Even though she did her best to maintain her dignity as her body survived the cycle of acute illness — her soul withered, slowly and quietly, over those months committed to a psychiatric unit.

Six months after she returned home, she told me she was unraveling again. She didn’t ask her friends what she should do, or tell them what she intended to do. One year ago this month, she didn’t wait until she was too ill to make the choice to die.

The day someone you love chooses to die must always feel too soon. September 5, 2014 was too soon for me, but I know it was likely not a moment too soon for my beloved friend. That day ended a lifetime of living with the enormous challenge of mental illness, a lifetime of immense loving and whole-hearted living, and a lifetime that impacted me more than I can possibly comprehend yet.

 

Janie Brown is the executive director of the Callanish Society, a nonprofit organization she co-founded in 1995 for people who are irrevocably changed by cancer, and who want to heal, whether it be into life, or death. An oncology nurse and therapist for almost thirty years, Janie explores her ideas through stories on her blog www.lifeindeath.org and is working on her first book.

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?

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