Understanding Suicide

Tis the season. As many of you know, I am a Hospice volunteer, so I am no stranger to the process of death and dying. It is something all of us must do, and it can be a beautiful and spiritual process for both the person who is dying and the friends and family who love them. Surprisingly enough though, most people who know that they are dying are willing to go through their own individual process, even when that process is a painful one.

But, there is a flip side to the coin. Did you know that more than 30,000 people in the U.S. take their own lives by suicide every year? In fact, it is the 11th leading cause of death in our country and the third leading cause among people who are 15-24. When someone close to you commits suicide there is a grief involved that is almost unbearable. Friends and family feel that they should have noticed that their deceased loved one was unhappy or upset. They feel that they could have been able to prevent what happened, that they could have said or done something that would have helped.

People who commit suicide are often dealing with feelings of pain and hopelessness. They may feel lonely, uncertain or powerless. But, most of all they might be in severe physical, mental, emotional and of course, spiritual pain.

During the winter holidays between Thanksgiving and New Years, there is very likely to be a rise in suicides. Experts say that people who want to take their own lives almost always feel that they are alone and have no one they can turn to for help. Listening and letting them know that you care are two of the most important things you can do for someone who has suicidal thoughts. Suicidal feelings often pass with time and the help and support of others, including people who are trained in suicide counseling.

According to the APA, four out of five people who attempt suicide have given clear warnings before the attempt.

Remarks like “I can’t go on.” “Nothing matters any more,” or “I’m thinking of ending it all,” need to be taken seriously. They are generally the first cries for help.

Other signs of impending suicide include:

Becoming depressed or withdrawn
Behaving recklessly
Getting affairs in order and giving away valued possessions
Showing a marked change in behavior, attitudes and appearance
Abusing drugs or alcohol
Suffering a major loss or life change

On a spiritual level, suicide ends a life that has not yet come to fruition. Our lives are not isolated. In fact, we change the lives of everyone we touch every day of our lives in some way, sometimes big, sometimes small. But, what we say, do and even think has an impact on the way the world continues to run. Suicide cuts this process short. And, it leaves those left behind with guilt, fear, doubt, anger, depression, and intense grief. Sometimes it takes years for those loved ones to recover. It is always a difficult thing on a spiritual level to lose a mother, father, child or spouse. Suicide makes that loss even more difficult to endure, especially if that loved one was a young, vital, and healthy individual with a lifetime of experience ahead of them. There is nothing so tragic as the suicide of a teenager or a young adult. And, unfortunately, because people of that age do not always think ahead or realize that “dead is dead,” they comprise the major group who is prone to suicide. Oftentimes, they are thinking of punishing someone who has hurt them, and unable to process the emotional pain, as they might be able to do when they are older, they commit suicide.

Suicides can tend to run in families, although experts on the subject do not really understand why this happens. It may be family circumstances, or in some cases, idol worship of the loved ones who was “brave” enough to leave this world behind.

In some cases, such as suicide bombings or kamikaze pilots it is a cultural honor to give one’s life for their country. The idea is that the life of one person is not as important as the lives of the many. If someone gives their life for their country in some cultures, their reward in the afterlife will be much greater.

We honor those who give their lives in war, even though most of them are young people who do not have a suicide wish. We consider them to be heroes even though the fight they are fighting may not be their fight. And, yes, we cannot discount that they are indeed the best and highest of heroes. But yet, when another culture does the same thing for a cause they feel is right and just we find it appalling and inhumane. There have even been wars fought with brother against brother in our own country, with both sides positive that they were on the “right” side.

In my opinion, and this is only my opinion for what it is worth, on a spiritual level our world needs to stop and realize the value of every single life, whether it is the life of someone who we love dearly or the life of someone who we consider to be an enemy.

Everyone is someone else’s son, daughter, mother, father, grandmother, grandfather or friend. And, the pain that is felt at their loss is no less to anyone else than it would be to each of us. I don’t think that there is a clear cut answer as long as our world has the need to follow the barbaric custom of killing one another for whatever the cause.

Life is to be respected, honored and lived to it’s fullest with love and compassion for every living thing, and this world that we live upon.

Here is a wonderful link that may help to save a few lives during this holiday season.

Peace and love.