Category Archives: death

Thoughts On Suicide

This morning, I learned of Anthony Bourdain’s suicide. On Tuesday, I learned of Kate Spade’s suicide. Over the past week, I have also had friends lose loved ones and acquaintances, some of natural causes, but a surprising number to suicide. In fact, the majority, sadly.

Thankfully, because I am surrounded by social workers and other thoughtful people on social media, there have been many posts about mental health, coupled with the suicide hotline number.

Not surprisingly, as I read through some of the comments on the celebrity deaths, there were people who chose to speak out without compassion… or understanding. They couldn’t fathom how somebody who “had it all” (aka: wealth and fame) should be mourned for being “stupid enough” to take their own lives. One even said, “boo hoo… not!” *sigh*

But here’s the simple truth about suicide:

One of our most basic and primal drives (in fact, it might be THE most basic and primal drive we have) is self-preservation. It’s biologically hard-wired into us. It’s hard-wired into every living thing in nature to survive.

Therefore, for someone to complete a suicide they would have to override the most basic biological drive they have. How bad do things have to be for them to do this? Pretty bad.

Overriding self-preservation has nothing to do with wealth or fame, nothing to do with gender, age, race, faith, or any other superficial “category” we assign to other human beings. To think that any of those “things” should be enough to protect someone is ridiculous, because none of them compare to the most primal drive we have: self-preservation.

As I mourn the loss of a person whose work I truly enjoyed, my heart aches more for the friends who are mourning the loss of family and loved ones. It’s often said that “suicide is never the answer.” But unless you have been in their shoes, living with something so dark that you can override your most basic need, I don’t think we should judge. I think we should only offer them love that their souls may heal and be free, and surround those left behind with strength and grace. 💖

When “Tomorrow” Never Comes

You always think you have more tomorrows, until suddenly yesterday’s “tomorrow” never comes.

tomorrow never comes quote

My sweet bird passed away yesterday (May 16, 2018). I am broken-hearted. She was with me for 17 years, 10 of which she was my closest companion during difficult times. She was my first “child” and loved to be kissed on the head. I kissed her goodbye last night, and cried. Today was the first day I haven’t heard her chirp in the morning when she heard me come downstairs. Nothing can prepare us for loss, no matter what or who it is we are losing.

My one wish is that I hadn’t said “tomorrow” as much as I did.RIP Sprout

 

Call It What It Is: Murder

Yet another tragedy has hit the United States. The problem with that sentence is not the word “tragedy” – it’s the word “another.”

Another tragedy.

Last night, in Las Vegas, blood was shed as innocent people’s lives were ended and changed forever. But it wasn’t a “shooting” or a “killing” or even a “violent attack” – those phrases are all too passive and have become far too acceptable in our society. It was murder. Mass murder. And the man who was responsible was not a “lone wolf” or a “shooter” or a “gunman” – he was a murderer.

Any human who takes another human’s life, knowingly and willingly (with few exceptions such as war), is a murderer. Death from an accident is not labeled murder, it’s called manslaughter.

Murder is murder.

It’s not “shootings” or “killings” or any other word we have come to use to somehow make it feel better. It’s murder.

Murder is the taking of another person’s life, for any reason – yes, even mental illness. (When a person with mental illness commits murder, we have different laws for that, but we still have laws. It’s not an excuse for the behavior, it’s a parameter by which their consequences are decided. The action was still murder.)

Yet, today I see people fighting over labels, because of the possibility of mental illness, instead of calling him what he is. People are arguing over the disparity in the media’s use of the words “terrorist” vs. “lone wolf” or “gunman” based on the man’s skin color. These are valid points, and ones that clearly need to be addressed by the one’s using the terminology, but they are also points that distract us from the issue at hand: How do we prevent mass murder? Whether by a terrorist, a person with mental illness, a gang member, or anybody else.

We’re distracted from the core issue, because it’s almost too much to deal with in our current emotional state. So, we fight. We fight about what’s most accessible: the words.

Why do we do this? Because our emotions are on overwhelm and we have too much energy coursing through our bodies, so we are fighting over anything we can wrap our heads around, anything tangible. Murder is not tangible, senseless murder even less so. We can’t wrap our heads around it, so instead we fight over the words used to describe the person who committed murder, as we try desperately to gain some foothold in an otherwise chaotic moment.

We are fried, and we don’t want to be. We don’t want to get to a point where this type of event is acceptable or even expected. So, we fight for our lives, our society, by focusing on the things that are closest to the surface, where we feel we can take a stand.

So, let’s make this easier: whether mentally ill or a terrorist, if you knowingly take another’s life (again, with few exceptions like war), the word to use is “murderer.” “Murderer” carries no association with religion, gender, or skin color, and takes the focus off the surface-level issues, which frees up our time and emotions to address what really matters: preventing murders and mass murders, by focusing on the causes.

I realize that our frustrated, angry, broken-hearted energy needs to go somewhere. So…

  • Let it go to fixing the problem, not blaming the result or the labels used to describe the event.
  • Let the energy running through you be channeled into something greater than anger and fear.
  • Let it go to change.

Change carries more power than anger and fear ever will, because it’s a focused energy, which means it will help you feel better as you work with it. And when it doesn’t, when it feels overwhelming, then I’ve found that walking in the woods helps. For some it’s running or yoga, for others it’s boxing or cross-fit or meditation. Whatever it is, the important thing is to create a focused use of the tidal wave of emotional energy we are all experiencing in the aftermath of another tragedy.

Then, there are steps we can take to regain a feeling of empowerment after tragedy and grief:

The first step out of overwhelm is always to speak truth to it: This was murder. Mass murder.  Name it, and take it out of the shadows where fear and anger reside.

The second step is to create change: What can we do to prevent it ever happening again? Brainstorm ideas with friends and colleagues. Start talking and discussing, not fighting.

The third step, possibly the most important step, is to live an empowered life embodying love and hope: What can I do myself, to create change, personally, locally, regionally, or globally? Empowered action starts from within, always.

Everyone’s answer to that last step is different. Mutual respect, communication, and understanding will make it all possible. Where there is overlap, we create community. But no single solution to create positive change is wrong, even if it’s not right for you.

This is where the fourth step comes in: Embrace each other with respect and curiosity. Listen, listen, listen.

Then take action.

Sickness, Death, and Love

Almost everybody I know has dealt with or is dealing with some level of sickness or death in their lives. If you’re human and you haven’t dealt with some measure of illness, or even death, I think THAT’S when you can count yourself among the richest 1% in the world. And that’s ok. Nothing to feel guilty about. Celebrate it, enjoy it, and offer up some big gratitude.

But for the rest of us, the 99%, here’s what I’ve noticed.

Almost 9 years ago when my dad had his massive stroke, many people came to wish us well and offer prayers and hope. So many friends and family members sharing phrases like, “it will be ok,” and “he’ll be fine.” But there was one – one person who dared to say something different.

I’ll never forget it. We were standing in the hallway outside the family room of the ICU almost in a reception line as a few friends were arriving, when Danny walked up to me. He put his hands on my shoulders, looked me straight in the eye and said, “This sucks.”

In that singular moment, I felt all the tension in my back and shoulders release, and I felt myself start to laugh a nervous laugh.

“Dare I agree with him?”

He hugged me tightly, and I felt like I would collapse since I no longer had tension holding me up.

“It just sucks. I’m so sorry,” he continued as he pulled back and looked me in the eye again.

By now, tears were welling up in my lower lids, and I realized I TOTALLY agreed with him.

“Thank you.” (hug) “Oh – THANK YOU!! You’re right. It sucks. It sucks big time, and it hurts, and it sucks.”

He smiled at me and didn’t offer the traditional phrases of comfort and condolence that many would interject at this point. Instead, he simply said, “Yeah,” and allowed me to have my peace, my reality, my truth.

And that was it. That one moment changed the way I look at life, death, and illness. More to the point, it changed the way I offer support to those around me who are experiencing challenging times. Yes, I still offer words of comfort and hope, but not to the exclusion of validating the sucky-ness of the situation. Nor to the point of negating the person’s experience.

The thing is, illness sucks. Death sucks for those left behind. So many books and teachers out there want us to focus on hope and find the positive in the situation, almost to the exclusion of the difficulty.

I’m a believer in how our thoughts change and create our lives. I know this to be true. I believe in finding the positive and living from that place. And yes, the positive is always there, can always be found, and helps us through the darker moments… but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t ALSO suck to live through it. Sometimes it just sucks. It’s hard, and it hurts. And that’s ok.

It means you knew Love.

Death and Remembrances

Death. It’s a tough subject, isn’t it? We don’t often discuss it in our society until something tragic (or expected) happens, and then we lament the past and momentarily feel scared of the future. Death, however, is a certainty. It happens, and it will happen. To all of us.

For me, I’ve been surrounded by the prospect of the death of a loved one on and off for over 13 years. That’s a long time to live wondering whether someone you love would leave, when they’d leave, and how they’d leave. In my case, it’s almost a third of my life! And yet, I’ve rarely discussed the subject with anyone, because it seemed somehow out of bounds.

Last night I was reminded of this when visiting with old friends. It was suggested that it was somehow wrong to discuss the prospect of dying with others. It was an unnecessary burden to place on another human being, especially someone in a younger generation, like an adult child. I respected their opinion, but I disagreed. Here’s why: Because I’ve been directly faced with the prospect of a loved one dying for some time now, I’ve been able to have the conversation in which I could offer a different perspective. When my loved one recently said to me that he felt he hadn’t done enough, accomplished enough, or been enough – I was able to share that he had, in fact, done more than he realized, that he had been more than he knew, and that he had accomplished incredible things….and I gave examples.

Being able to share with someone what their legacy may be, before they pass, is a gift. Being able to have the same honest conversation with ourselves is an incredible opportunity. So, I thought about it. (Admittedly, it’s not the first time I’ve done so, and with each instance, I’ve gained further clarity for my life.) I asked myself this question:

If I were to die tomorrow, would I be ok with that? The answer was simply: Yes.

I know with absolute certainty that I would be able to say that I died content, knowing that I would be remembered as I would have liked…. as someone who loved well. I may not have accomplished all that I desired, and I may have left unfinished business, but I would know in my heart that I lived according to my values, my goals, and who I am as a person. In my opinion, we can’t ask for much more than that. I know I can’t.

So – although it’s a difficult conversation to have, I think it’s important. Not only to discuss with loved ones but also with yourself. And it’s a good yardstick against which to measure how you are living. It’s one of those barometers I’ve talked about. If you were to pass tomorrow, what do you hope would be said of you, and more importantly, what would you be able to say of yourself? If the answer is not what you would hope it would be, what a great opportunity to make changes now so that it will be then. Asking the question is about creating opportunities for sharing, caring and making changes. And I think that’s healthy and, actually, life-affirming.

I also want to share that I have every intention of living to a ripe old age, loving well along the way. 🙂  What is your intention?