We’ve all heard someone who has said that phrase, or a phrase similar to it like, “If that happens, I’m just gonna kill myself” or “Kill me now” etc. Phrases like this are just in our everyday conversations, and no one really thinks twice about them because, obviously, the people aren’t serious when they say them. They are just words that get said when you need to blow off some steam because you are at your wit’s end with a situation. I get it. I say them too. There are days when I am in a predicament that I don’t really want to be in but am forced to be there for whatever reason. When that happens, my best friend will 9 times out of 10 get a text message that says, “ugh…kill me now!” She just laughs and says, “that bad, eh?” And then we continue on with our conversation.
My best friend laughs because, like I said, we both know that I am not being serious in my request for her to kill me. I don’t actually wish I were dead instead of being in that situation. I just don’t like what is going on around me, and I don’t want to be there. It’s an exaggeration that is used to convey just how much I hate whatever is going on. It’s as simple as that.
This got me thinking though. It got me thinking about how people really do kill themselves because they cannot stand the thought of being alive for one more second. They kill themselves because they see no way out of their despair other than to end their lives. In some figment of their minds, they truly think that everyone will be better off if they just weren’t here. We wouldn’t have to deal with their mood swings. We wouldn’t have to worry about their fragile emotions. We wouldn’t have to wonder if they were okay…because they wouldn’t be here at all. Problem solved.
After thinking about that, I had an eye-opening moment. Why is it okay for us to say that we’re just going to kill ourselves if something doesn’t go our way? Why is it okay to just throw those words out like they have no meaning? Because, when you think about it, saying that you would rather be dead than doing something unpleasant is kind of a heavy statement. Now, I’m not trying to condemn anyone here because, like the first paragraph states, I am guilty of doing this myself. This isn’t a blog similar to those urging you to “erase the ‘r’ word” or to not post a fake pregnancy announcement on April fools days because it is insensitive to those trying to conceive. No, this isn’t some call to action. I’m just trying to explain the epiphany I had, and how it completely changed my thoughts on suicide.
Think about how desperate you feel when those words come out of your mouth. How badly you want to be out of whatever the situation is that you’re in. Think about how you would literally rather be doing ANYTHING but whatever it is that you’re doing. Now amplify that by 1,000. No…amplify that by 1,000,000. That’s how desperate someone is when they actually act on those word and take their own life. That’s how completely alone they feel. That’s how badly they need to get out of their situation and how hopeless they feel about being able to find an alternate route.
Whenever people talk about suicide, which is hardly ever because it is one of those taboo topics that never gets talked about in fear of stepping on someone’s toes, they always talk about how it is a cowards way out. “It’s for weak-minded people,” they say. Selfish is a word that is commonly associated with suicide because “the person wasn’t thinking about anyone but themselves”, and “they weren’t thinking about their family and friends who they were leaving behind to make sense of the situation.” I’ll admit that I used to be one of those people. I never understood how someone could take their own life because it was the most selfish action they could do. I couldn’t comprehend someone being THAT selfish. I always thought that it was the escape plan for the weak-minded. Boy, was I wrong. How do I know I am wrong?
I am a survivor of suicide.
No, I do not mean that I have battled with suicidal thoughts or tried to end my life. What I mean is that I have survived the aftermath of the earthquake that suicide can send through your life. I am still walking through the rubble of that earthquake and trying to pick up the pieces of what was left behind. I don’t talk about this much because, as I said before, suicide is simply a topic that doesn’t get discussed. I’m going to end that right now by saying this… My dad passed away on March 1, 2015. My dad, well, he killed himself.
Even writing this blog is something that seems wrong for me to do. All I am doing right now is typing words on a computer screen, yet it is taking everything in me not to go back and delete the sentence that says my dad killed himself. I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes if they don’t want the world to know that my dad committed suicide. I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable when they read those words. Why is that? It’s no different from someone dying of a terminal illness or a car accident. It is tragic and definite. He is gone, and there is nothing that I, or any one else, can do to change that. So why is it that if someone dies of cancer, everyone talks about it and how we need to find a cure to prevent it from happening in the future, but if someone commits suicide, is it kept quiet and shoved in a dark corner of the world, never to be talked about?
Once again, I am guilty of this. Until this blog goes public, there are only a few people who know exactly how my dad died. Everyone else simply knows that he is now living his eternal life in heaven. Even in my blog post about him, his death, and our relationship, I never said the word suicide. I’ve had close friends literally just find out, like two weeks ago, that he killed himself and other’s will find out when they read this blog–people I do life with every single day. I think that part of the reason for that is because I am a private person, and I don’t feel like everyone needs to know every single detail of my life. However, that is only a small portion of it.
Mainly, people don’t know that my dad killed himself because I was too much of a coward to tell them. I also think that I convinced myself that, as long as the words never came out of my mouth, they weren’t really real. He didn’t really kill himself. I didn’t want those looks of pity or to make them feel uncomfortable. How funny is that? Someone I loved passed away, and I was worried about making the people around me uncomfortable by telling them that he committed suicide. I was worried that they would judge him in an area where they have no right to judge him. In a sense, I was protecting him because I didn’t want the last thing for people to “remember” about him was that he was “selfish”. You see, the thing is, when it comes to suicide, no one knows what to say. So, they give their best attempts to smile and provide you with a distraction, but they never say the word. Suicide is just like politics and religion…you simply don’t talk about it…even if it is something that just happened in your life and completely changed the game rules. The thing is…talking about it would help erase the negative stigma that is associated with suicide and make it easier to talk about in the future.
When my both my grandmothers passed away, most everyone knew how they died. Because they both had cancer, I talked about it and their treatments. I talked about how we needed to find an end to the disease.I talked about how much I hate the word cancer. However, there were still some people who didn’t know that they were sick, so when they’d ask me how those beautiful women passed away, the word “cancer” came rolling off my tongue like any other word. No hesitation. Why? Because the stigma that is attached to cancer is very different from the one attached to suicide. Cancer patients are considered to be brave and strong (which they absolutely are!). Suicide victims are weak and cowardly (which they absolutely are not!). Because of this, it’s easier to honor someone’s life who passed away from the monster that is cancer because they are brave and strong and deserve to be honored; However, someone who commits suicide doesn’t deserve that honor because they are selfish and weak. It’s just wrong to feel/think this way.
I can’t say that I didn’t think about how selfish my dad was for killing himself. Because I did. In fact, one of the first text messages I sent out about my dad was literally minutes after I got the news, and it stated just how angry I was at my dad. I questioned why he would be come back into my life a mere three years ago if he was just going to end his life and take himself away from me permanently. I mean, how selfish can you get? Why would he dangle the idea of being at my wedding and meeting my future children in front of me just to rip them away?
However, as time went on, and I dealt with the sea of emotions that came my way, that way of thinking subsided. Instead, I started thinking about what was going on in his mind the moments before he made the decision to kill himself. What thoughts was he wrestling with? Was this intentional or just a stupid mistake? What lies was the enemy telling him that were so believable? How did he get that lonely or desperate without anyone realizing? Were there signs that we missed? Could we have saved him? I experienced the typical survivors guilt that happens after the loss of a loved one to suicide. I felt guilty for being alive when the mere thought of it was something he couldn’t bear anymore. I would think to myself that if I had just sent him a text that day, maybe he would have been able to hold on and not end his life. I would think that maybe, just maybe, him hearing me tell him that I loved him one more time would have given him enough strength to reach out for some help. Then there were times where I blamed myself for not seeing any warning signs. I was downright mad some nights. Like I said, there was a sea of emotions, but the thought that his actions were selfish disappeared in that ocean.
I’m not really sure when or where things shifted in my mind, but I am glad that they did because I’ve realized so many things about suicide that I would have never discovered if my thoughts were stuck on the “selfish” aspect of it. The thing is, suicide is a decision that is made our of pure desperation. Endless hopelessness. It’s almost like a black hole because the thoughts of being a burden, being stuck with no way out, or being lost can be all-consuming. Typically, these are all factors of clinical depression, and people can suffer from depression for years without a single soul knowing. The scary thing is that you don’t have to have been battling depression for years before coming to the decision to commit suicide. There is no time frame–it just depends on the person, the situation, and the thoughts going through their minds.
As I stated before, the word “selfish” is typically tacked onto suicide because of the survivors. It’s selfish to leave behind loved ones, and they don’t think about them or their feelings when they take their life, or so the world will have us believing. What the world doesn’t think about is how those very loved ones are usually the reason people hang on for as long as they do–even if it’s just one more day. They do think about those people they love and are leaving behind, probably up until their very last moment. However, their hopelessness envelops them and leaves them feeling that they literally have no other alternative and that the best option for them and their loved ones is to end their life. Can you imagine how devastating that thought would be to endure? The thought that the only option you have to end the hurt and pain is to end your life. I can’t even imagine how soul-crushing that has to be.
Here’s the thing. Unless you have been on a journey that took you to that level of desperation, lost yourself to a black hole of darkness and emptiness, or have had your world rocked by the earthquake that is suicide…you aren’t entitled to make those ill-informed judgements. Your ignorance on the subject isn’t a free pass to judge another person. Sure, you may not understand it, but your solution to that should be to get informed, not to ignore it and pretend that it doesn’t exist because I assure you, from personal experience, that is does exist. Of course, you are 100% entitled to your own opinion on the subject…that’s what makes this world a beautiful place. However, placing those judgements and keeping that stigma alive won’t help anyone. In fact, it will only hurt people in the long run.
We shouldn’t be afraid to talk about this topic because it is something that is claiming people’s lives–people who are worthy of love. People who are lost. People who mean something to other people. Suicide awareness and prevention is something that needs to be discussed. It’s been swept under the rug for too long, and as a result, people have lost their lives, and others have been ashamed to talk about it and how it completely changed their lives as they walk through the aftermath.
The good news? You can help.
Know and look for the warning signs. Most people who “succeed” in taking their lives have told someone in the past about their intention. This means that when people talk to you, really listen to what they are saying. Don’t simply hear their words–instead, actually listen to them and learn how to read between the lines. Be present in every conversation.
Make yourself available. You don’t need to push yourself on them…just be available. Let them know that you are there for them wherever and whenever they may need you. Check in on them periodically. Be persistent…not overbearing. Sometimes, less is more and people just need to be reminded that they are not alone.
Pray. Every time you find yourself saying something like, “just shoot me now”, pray for someone who may be struggling with that thought for real. Even if you don’t have someone in mind who might be struggling with suicidal thoughts, just pray in general. Pray that God comforts someone who is feeling desperate enough to end their life. Pray that they don’t believe the lies that they enemy is feeding them. Pray for the people who have endured the loss of a loved one to suicide. Pray for their comfort and peace. Just pray. Jesus can do all the heavy lifting if we just ask for His help.
Be kind–always. Some people never display the warning signs because they are good at putting on a brave face (my dad is the perfect example of this). What this means is that you may never know if someone is contemplating suicide. A simple smile could be the reason someone holds on for another day. A kind gesture could reinstate their hope, just a little bit, and give them the strength to ask for help. Being kind is one of the easiest things you can do to improve the lives of the people around you.
Don’t worry about what religion says. There are some people who believe that when you commit suicide, you automatically go to hell because your last action on earth was a sin (murder). Let me make this really clear for you, you don’t go to hell because you commit suicide, you go to hell because you don’t have a relationship with Jesus. That’s it. Nothing more. Nothing less. Anything else is just added on by religion and rules set by religion. So, if you are like me and struggled with that thought after a loved one committed suicide–wondering if you are going to see them again or not in heaven– put your mind at ease a little by knowing that the act of suicide does not equal automatic “sentencing” to hell.
Practice using the word “suicide” and don’t dance around the subject–especially when talking to the survivors of suicide. It may be too late to help their loved one who has passed away, but it isn’t too late to help them not feel ashamed about it. The word “suicide” is simply a word…just like “soda” or “bubblegum”. Sure, it is a heavy word, but it shouldn’t be treated as a “bad word” that we don’t use. Use it. This will help make it less uncomfortable for you, and others, when they tell you that their loved one took their life.
Reach out to those who have been affected by suicide. Don’t treat them any differently than someone who lost a loved one to any other disease or accident because they are grieving just like everyone else. Even if you don’t know what to say, and despite the fact that it might make you uncomfortable, be there for them. Believe me, it will mean the world to them to not be treated like they have the plague or that they are made of glass, just because their loved one took their own life. Hold their hands, hug them, be gentle with their broken hearts, and remind them that they are not to blame and that there is nothing they could have done to change the outcome.
Talk to the survivors of suicide about their departed loved ones. Ask questions about their life–be interested. Don’t make it seem like their death was any less relevant than another simply because of the means in which it happened. Trust me when I say that we want to talk about them to you. We want to honor them by keeping their legacy alive and talking about them every chance we get and sharing our stories. We just feel like you don’t want to know about them when you stiffen up or you get a wide-eyed, blank expression on your face right after we tell you that they killed themselves.When that happens, we resort to remembering our loved ones internally and stop telling people about them, including how they died, and that isn’t fair to them or us. They deserve to be honored, and we deserve to be able to talk about them openly.
Don’t feel bad for being uncomfortable with the idea of suicide. We should never be comfortable with it because that means that we accept it. Don’t accept it. Erase it. Don’t be afraid to talk about it. Talking about it is the only way we can make it go away.
Over 30,000 people commit suicide every year in the United States. There is one death by suicide in the world every 40 seconds. So I guess that I lied earlier when I said this was not a call to action because that’s exactly what this blog is about. The time has come to increase awareness, empathy, kindness, and love and to decrease those numbers and the judgements that are passed. It’s time to make a change and talk about suicide. It’s time to end the stigma and be the voice. It’s time to let people–potential victims and survivors–know that they are not alone.
Photo by anton petukhov
*This blog is dedicated to Michael Hieronymus Jr. A man whose life was worth more than he knew. A man who deserves to be remembered as a funny, caring, witty, smart, loving, Harley riding, chili cooking, Crue head. A man who was a father, husband, son, brother, uncle, friend, and so much more. He was a man who deserves to be remembered as more than the way he exited the world because that is only a small piece of his 45 year long story. Miss you every single day, dad, and I am proud to be your daughter. I can’t wait to see you again on the other side of eternity.*