At a St. Patrick’s Day party last week, I had a conversation with a man whose daughter committed suicide when she was in her mid-twenties, five or so years ago. My heart broke for this nice guy, and as much as I could feel for him as a fellow parent, I knew I could never achieve full empathy (I hope I never will).
When I told him I bet it will be nice when he sees her again – as in, when he sees her in heaven — I expected a “Yes it will.” Instead, he disagreed and said, “When you die, there’s nothing but blackness. I won’t see her again.” It wasn’t the time to throw down in a lengthy religious debate, so I accepted his position and wished him well.
But he said something else that caught my attention. His daughter suffered with substance abuse and bad relationships, so – with no option before her – she made a choice to be done with it. Life was so bad, it wasn’t worth fixing. In his words, “She made a decision, and stuck with it. I respect her for that.”
What did I just hear?
Precious few of us walk between the raindrops and we all experience degrees of pain, large and small, resulting from our own or someone else’s decisions. But I don’t believe there’s a soul walking this earth today who wouldn’t leave a trail of pain like scattered debris from a plane crash if he took his own life. When I hear of suicides, I am both sad and furious because of the level of selfishness inherent in this act. We can guess that many people who’ve committed suicide did so – at least in part — to relieve a perceived, or in certain cases, realistic burden upon their families and friends. The truth is, no burden a person places on another is heavier than suicide. Whatever your problems, there is someone who wants and needs you here. Suicide is narcissism at its highest degree.
The older I get, the more I believe narcissism is more often derived from pity than braggadocio. Sure, we only have to look at the first few social media posts in our feeds to see multiple selfies which are often acts of “Look at me. Dear God, please look at me!” We have a president who frequently talks about how successful he is in the business world. When people brag incessantly about their looks, or how much money they have, it’s relatively harmless. We see self-absorbed, rich and beautiful people all the time; it’s the kind of thing that sells products and services. However, the weapons-grade narcissism, the kind that shatters families and communities, is one that says, “I want to end my pain, and in doing so I don’t care what pain I cause you.”
Brain chemical imbalances are real, and those with serious mental conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder need psychological and psychopharmacological help. Find the assistance you need. If not for you, do it for your loved ones.
If you are considering suicide, I beg you to think about two things:
1) If there is a heaven (this book can help with that belief) you might have a hard time getting there if you end your own life.
2) Consider the shockwave of pain that will rip through your family, friends, and community not just by your passing, but that from your own actions. They will be hobbled by that hurt for the rest of their lives. Stop thinking about yourself, and see how what you do will affect someone else.
This life is a gift and, as far as we know, we only get one chance at it. We are here for a reason, even if that reason is small and unknown. Stay with us. Let’s do this together.
One last thing to leave you with this week, a powerful painting by Egyptian Kerolos Safwat. I can’t help but believe this is how each of us will react on that first day.