But in particular, suicide has been on my mind, and for a number of reasons: the topic for the November gathering of the Quaker Concern Around Dying and Death is sudden death and suicide; I've been having a lot of conversations with other people, especially suicide-loss survivors, about suicide; there are so many places in my life where the topic just comes up, over and over.
For quite some time now, I've wanted to post some articles, both by me and by guest authors, on the topic of suicide.
Suicide touches so many of us. But we're conditioned not to talk about it, whether we feel like we want to die, or we've tried, or someone we know or care about or love wants to die, has tried to kill themselves, or has died by suicide.
That don't-talk-about-it message makes it harder to reach out for help, harder to grieve and mourn, and harder to heal.
Over the last few years, but especially this last year, I have felt a renewed commitment to talking about suicide, particularly to being open about the fact that I'm a suicide-loss survivor. A number of people in my life, over the span of many years, have died by suicide. The most recent suicide death in my life came three years ago. In response, that part of my extended family has been very committed to talked about it, especially amongst my generation. To reach out to each other. I've also found myself talking more openly in the rest of my life, not just about that death, but about previous ones. Robin Williams' death in August also prompted a lot of discussion about suicide. And I've heard from a lot of other suicide-loss survivors, as well as from other people who have contemplated suicide.
I've had some really amazing, hard, courageous, and wonderful conversations over the last months and year with many people about suicide, being a suicide-loss survivor, and how to talk about all of this. Thank you to everyone who's been part of those. You have really helped me, and each other.
In the next week or so, I'll have several guest posts to share from people who have different kinds of experience with suicide. I hope these pieces will be helpful to you in your spiritual work approaching Samhain, and also in general.
They'll each be clearly labeled, so if you're not ready to read about suicide, you don't have to. You can also come back and read them later.
To start, I'd like to recommend some easy-to-read, thoughtful, helpful pieces by my friend Hollis Easter.
Among other things, Hollis "runs a telephone crisis hotline and teaches people how to listen, offer support, help people who think of suicide to choose life, and build lasting strength in communities." Hollis is one of the friends and colleagues I've had deep, chewy conversations with about this issue, the kinds of conversations which catalyze other work.
Here are some of Hollis' pieces I've found helpful in stumbling towards talking about this. I hope they're helpful for you, too:
- Suicide-related terminology: http://www.holliseaster.com/p/suicide-related-terminology/. This is an excellent one to start with.
- How to ask about suicide: http://www.holliseaster.com/p/ask-suicide/. Do you know someone you think might be struggling, might be thinking about suicide, but you're afraid to ask? Don't be.
- Talking about suicide and Robin Williams' death: http://www.holliseaster.com/p/talking-about-suicide-robin-williams/
- Why you shouldn’t say “suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem”: http://www.holliseaster.com/p/suicide-permanent-solution-temporary-problem-isnt-helpful/
There are many more fascinating, and useful, articles at Hollis' blog; I recommend exploring.
If you are struggling with suicide, please, talk to someone.
- In the US, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline free from anywhere at 1-800-273-TALK.
- In the UK, you can call the Samaritans anytime, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, on 08457 90 90 90.
- In Scotland, you can call the Breathing Space phoneline, which is available 24 hours at weekends (6pm Friday - 6am Monday), and 6pm - 2am on weekdays (Monday - Thursday), on 0800 83 85 87.
Look for some more posts within the next week.
This is gentle, tender work. Be kind to yourself.