It’s the a voodoo truth: don’t talk about suicide.
If you talk about it, you might bring it around, so just don’t talk about it.
When someone does talk about it, quash the talk quickly. Cowardly, self-murder, easy way out, sick, sinful, reprehensible.
It’s the survivors who write history. For those who have had someone close to them commit suicide, the trauma for the living, the mess left behind is the story. The only story.
“Suicide really kills the people left behind,” one said. Another person’s choice was “really” all about the people around them, according to her. They should have swallowed their frustration, pain, isolation or weariness to keep others comfortable, suicide just being another way of acting out to inflict pain, not a difficult choice to end it.
Any assertion that your first job is to keep others around you comfortable by hiding your own suffering and challenge is unreasonable and abusive.
Especially for young people, the option of suicide is the ultimate hold on their own agency in a world where they are subject to the whims and obligations of the pressures on them. It gives them some ultimate ownership of self-control, knowing that if things get too, too bad, they can call game over.
For others, the threat of suicide is the goal. It allows them to get a kind of attention and gravity that they could not achieve any other way. This is suicidal speech as a cry for attention or a cry for help, a kind of posturing to break through the banality of everyday language.
Death and rebirth the theme of human lives, loss and transcendence, letting go and becoming new. The final loss of this life, the death of the body, is always the most drastic and not to be taken lightly as a permanent response to a temporary problem.
“Wouldn’t it be great if I was already dead?”
Still, the first thing any person with thoughts of that ultimate end is told to do is to not talk about it with anyone who isn’t trained. Those who hold suicide chat as voodoo will try to shut conversation down immediately, rather than letting thinking about that choice be a way to discuss the challenges, stresses and bleakness someone else is feeling.
Instead of opening conversations that might be helpful and affirming, the mention of suicide often just freaks people out so much that increases the social pressure that suicide is designed to escape, rather than releasing some of it.
“My death is the most pleasant thing that anyone can imagine for someone like me.”
There is no doubt that suicide is a really bad spur-of-the-moment idea. And there are better ways to communicate your pain and get help than to make a weak attempt.
If you feel that you need death, first try rebirth. Toss off your old life and boldly claim a new life, however weird it may be. Join a cult, be a freak, live on the streets, volunteer on a project, pick vegetables, whatever you can do to drastically and dramatically change the pressures you are under, to give you a new context to understand life.
To make rebirth work, though, you have to be willing to let go of your stuff. Wherever you go, there you are, so bringing your own sad and sorry self with you will never let you get away from your troubles. It’s vital that you realize your life is about you, not about them, so any choice designed to strike out at them is really a strike against your own tender heart. They won’t care like you want them to, but if you don’t care for yourself first, nobody else will.
No one has the luxury of demanding the world change to accommodate them. Sure, money can buy you some insulation from the world, but in the end, the world changes only slowly and in one direction. The only power you have is to change your own choices, which first requires changing your attitude.
Still, you don’t have to stay in one place and take what is being thrown at you. You can get away, you can leap, you can get a new start, which can work if you don’t bring your old habits along with you.
There comes a time, though, when the choice to die becomes well considered. Society is right to make that choice hard — having people bullied into their death must not be allowed and the vulnerable need to be cared for, not just disposed of — but in the end, it is a choice. Maybe just a choice to provide contrast — life offers a much more clear and bright range of possibilities than the darkness of death — but a choice, nonetheless.
Suicide is not about you. Suicide is about the person who chooses to end their life. You didn’t save them, but that was never your job, maybe never even possible. People heal — and fail to heal — in their own way and their own time. You can only provide context for that healing, only help. You can’t actually save anybody.
Suicide may shatter your assumptions and force you to reconsider your own choices, destroying what you believed was normal. Normal, though, is only a mental state, not any kind of reality, and it needs to be shattered now and then so we can emerge vulnerable from our cracked shells and grow some.
Pain shows us where healing is needed. My father didn’t feel pain in his last year, but that also meant he couldn’t participate in his own healing, breaking down more and more. That was very hard.
In the end, you made the best choices you could make, the only choices you could make, and you are not responsible for the choices of another person. They had their own human experience to contend with, to live with or to die with.
Love endures, even as the flesh fails. As humans, we need to hold onto that to give our lives meaning. You gave and they gave and it was real, even if it wasn’t enough to transcend death. Nothing is.
Talk about suicide. Do the death and rebirth thing. Celebrate life, even if it sometimes ends badly.
What else can humans possibly do?
“À ma mort.” A toast, to you.