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.

Go gently, dear one

Go gently, dear one.

There is no need to push, push, push.

Treat yourself with exquisite tenderness.

You have endured more than imagined possible.

You have swum in unimaginable depths and shadows

Breathe out fear and worry, rage and guilt.

Slowly open the knots in your heart.

Take small sips of breath and

Breathe in hope and possibility.

Pull in equanimity and calm.

Allow your heart to be soothed.

You have been through so much, so very much.

Go gently, dear one.

 

Loss and grief

Loss is universal. It is also idiosyncratic and unique. We each handle loss in our own way. There is no right or wrong way to come to terms with death.

It is hard, exhausting, and excruciating work to make sense of the un-sensible and to unpack and repack a life that you have held with such love and affection. You will need time and space to work through all the layers of feelings as you remember and revisit all that you experienced and shared with the one you lost.

Loss requires time, time to accept the unacceptable and time to feel the undulations and reverberations of your loss. There is no time limit—grief takes as long as it takes. Grief opens you up in ways you never thought possible. Unexpectedly, you will find yourself remembering other losses in your life as well. Grief builds upon grief; like pearls strung on a necklace, every loss becomes connected close to your heart.

Trauma is also a cumulative experience. We hold traumatic events in our cellular memories. They are not forgotten. And like grief, a new trauma can trigger feelings from a prior trauma. This is important to consider, as suicide is both a traumatic and grief-filled experience. The double whammy of grief and trauma can sometimes be so overwhelming that it is hard for you to stand or eat or sleep or even make simple conversation. Dealing with a suicidal loss requires extreme gentleness as you wade through the minefields of emotional residue.

Understand that grief can be crazy-making. Your world is upside down and nothing makes sense. You have lost the terra firma upon which you have grounded yourself. Now, everything is up in the air. There are no more givens or constants; everything seems like a variable. One ER nurse told a grieving mom, “Do not be surprised if you hear the voice of your daughter. It is not abnormal to hear voices of the deceased, especially at the beginning.”

There is no one way to grieve and deal with loss. It is such a difficult process of both accepting the unacceptable and letting go of your most cherished. It takes time to deal with the layers and work your way back to solid ground.

Be gentle and take precious care. You are not alone.

This is no ordinary goodbye

Suicide leaves you in a complicated place.

Grief and trauma are intertwined.

This is no ordinary goodbye.

Go gently.

Be kind to yourself.

Take as much time as you need.

Remember.

Cry some more.

Rant and rage.

Love some more.

It’s all ok.

In fact, it’s perfect.

Your heart will lead you

into a place of shelter.

Take precious care.

This is no ordinary goodbye.

 

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 thunderclap of sudden death

MT storm comingFrequently, suicides are sudden deaths. And sudden death hits like an enormous, out-of-the-blue thunderclap to the heart. Your world stops. This can’t be true.

And, then, your brain frantically engages. One minute the person is here; the next minute that familiar presence is gone. Like a flame extinguished, you are plunged into a darkness that is incomprehensible. You become wild-eyed with questions and uncertainties.

You try to make sense of it all; you retrace your steps. You race back in time to the very last connection you shared. You think of the “Goodnight, Honey” or the “Don’t stay out too late” to a family member or the “Have a good weekend” to the co-worker on his way out the door. The everyday words, the daily connections, seem so trivial and unimportant given the enormity of the loss, but they matter. They are the connective tissue of life.

Your mind, like a search engine run amok, comes up with all the related memories and associations. You remember the shared laugh over a quick cup of coffee. You think of the sharp words about keeping the curfew or who is going to pick up the quart of milk or why didn’t this-or-that get done.

You remember yesterday, your last week, last year, the day they were born, the day you got married, the day they walked into your class, your job, your life. Whenever and whatever those points of intersection, the moments of laughter and love, the hard times, the good times, the better times, the hang-out times, you want to remember it all — in vivid, painstaking detail.

Images and words jump to the fore. Your knees buckle at the image of reading him a bedtime story or brushing her hair. Bath time, bedtime, play time, work time, lunchtime, sleep time, making love time, finishing the project time; it all spreads before you—a diagram of your life with that person.

You find yourself choked up; words, memories, and feelings are caught in your throat and chest. It is difficult to take a deep breath. Everything feels so fragile and precious now. It is hard to navigate these uncharted waters; you lurch from side to side, feeling broken into a million little pieces. You have been shattered.

Sudden death leaves a trail of collateral damage. There is shock, complicated grief and, frequently, trauma. It takes time to accept the reality into your psyche. It takes courage to deal with the aftermath of sorting through a suicidal death. There is a deluge of every possible feeling.

Go gently. Go patiently. It takes clock time and it also takes as-much-as-you-need “heart time” for you to grieve and pick up all the shards of your shattered heart.

May you find peace. And may your newly pieced-together heart be awash in love and compassion for our very humanness.

 

 

Suicidal grief: non-ordinary time

bluepurpledandelionLoss is universal. It is also idiosyncratic and unique. We each handle loss in our own way. There is no right or wrong way to come to terms with death.

It is hard, exhausting, and excruciating work to make sense of the un-sensible and to unpack and repack a life that you have held with such love and affection. You will need time and space to work through all the layers of feelings as you remember and revisit all that you experienced and shared with the one you lost.

Loss requires time, time to accept the unacceptable and time to feel the undulations and reverberations of your loss. There is no time limit—grief takes as long as it takes. Grief opens you up in ways you never thought possible. Unexpectedly, you will find yourself remembering other losses in your life as well. Grief builds upon grief; like pearls strung on a necklace, every loss becomes connected, close to your heart.

Trauma is also a cumulative experience. We hold traumatic events in our cellular memories. They are not forgotten. And like grief, a new trauma can trigger feelings from a prior trauma. This is important to consider, as suicide is both a traumatic and grief-filled experience. The double whammy of grief and trauma can sometimes be so overwhelming that it is hard for you to stand or eat or sleep or even make simple conversation.

Dealing with a suicidal loss requires extreme gentleness as you wade through the minefields of emotions. Past, present and future can collide in a stream of what was and what could have been.

This is non-ordinary time. You will see the world differently. Your baseline has changed. What was once terra firma is no more. Everything is shifting around you. You wade through deep emotions, conflicting feelings and the sheer agony of loss.

And, then, when you are hollowed out and spent, there will be a day– as unbelievable as it feels — when you refind your feet and connect with your newly pieced-together heart. On that day, you will be to take a step forward without toppling over.

Go in peace, dear one.