A Conversation on Suicide and the Left Behind: Twitterscript of Jennifer Michael Hecht

Friday, March 14, 2014 - 3:16pm
Photo by Spencer Platt

A Conversation on Suicide and the Left Behind: Twitterscript of Jennifer Michael Hecht

by Trent Gilliss (@TrentGilliss),  Executive Editor / Chief Content Officer
“None of us can truly know what we mean to other people and none of us can now what our future self will experience. History and philosophy ask us to remember these mysteries, to look around at friends, family, humanity, at the surprises life brings — the endless possibilities that living offers — and to persevere. There is love and insight to live for, bright moments to cherish, and even the possibility of happiness, and the chance of helping someone else through his or her own troubles. Know that people, through history and today, understand how much courage it takes to stay.

Bear witness to the night side of being human and the bravery it entails, and wait for the sun. If we meditate on the record of human wisdom we may find there reason enough to persist and find our way back to happiness. The first step is to consider the arguments and evidence and choose to stay. After that, anything may happen. First, choose to stay.”

~Jennifer Michael Hecht, Stay: A History of Suicide and the Philosophies Against It

We are receiving an outpouring of stories from people sharing their stories of grief and resilience. We're hoping this Twitterscript of Krista's conversation with Ms. Hecht prompts you to join our ongoing conversation about suicide. Share your experiences here and let's build a better dialogue about this issue in our society.

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Trent Gilliss is executive editor of On Being and chief content officer of Krista Tippett Public Productions. He received a Peabody Award in 2007 for his work on "The Ecstatic Faith of Rumi" and garnered two Webby Awards (in 2005, and again in 2008). The Online News Association nominated his journalistic work multiple times in the general excellence and outstanding specialty journalism categories. Trent's reported and produced stories from Turkey to rural Alabama, from Israel and the West Bank to Cambridge, England.

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42Reflections

Reflections

I know what it is like to feel total emptiness. To reach the point and to attempt suicide and survive. Having lived through that experience and being on the other side of it for seven years now, l still have my struggles but cope much better. I attribute this to therapy, meditation, writing, art and prayer. I live alone. Aloneness and loneliness are two different entities. Being alone is manageable. Loneliness settles into your soul, causing pain and inner conflict. Thus leading to an increase in depression and anxiety, that has been my experience anyway.

Wow! A week ago today, one of my best friends shot himself. I was sitting here this morning, trying to come to terms with the world without him in it....... Then I heard this about this conversation on the radio.

I'm not sure I have much to say, outright. I know this landscape well. He's not the first friend I've lost to suicide. And, I'd played on the edge of that cliff myself. AND, this friend and I had discussed suicide, and what comes after, often and fearlessly in depth. He didn't believe in suicide. He thought you went to hell if you committed suicide. About my other friend, he said, in his wonderfully blunt, direct way, "I'm sorry, but I won't lie to you. Your friend is in hell. You need to worry about your own self." He meant every word of that, at the time. He WAS sorry. Truly sorry. For my grief and my loss and my friend. But he would NOT lie to me. I'm confident that he never did, because that's the way he was. And, what he said was what he deeply and truly believed. I told him, "If that's the nature of your God, I want NO PART of him!" And, I meant that. Now, I call myself a Christian and that is because of the testimony of this particular friend, although he'd argue the point.

I know he was in a very dark place, when he pulled that trigger. I know that the view from the edge of that cliff is a very narrow one and there are many things you can't see and don't think of. I BELIEVE that now he knows I was right, back then, about the nature of God. That God IS Love and God knows our hearts and our pain and a God like that could hardly reject us because of a momentary choice.

I hope you get a good conversation going here!

Two girls in my daughter's 7th grade class attempted suicide in the past 4 weeks. I see a small grieving class of 13 yr old's trying to make sense of their microcosim called middle school. They are forever changed. The school sent out a note to parents saying the girls have trouble dealing with conflict. Administrators and teachers are afraid to talk about what exclusion does to a person's spirit, how we all need just one friend and and what being a member of a school community really means. I wish we could develop program's for middle schoolers where they are mentored by high school students telling them they will survive middle school-that all the dynamics change. I wish there were a series of videos like the one's Dan Savage made about being gay, but with people talking about surviving bullying, exclusion and feeling alone. We need the world to stop saying, "well it's just middle school or high school" and instead find way to identify kids who seem isolated and help them develop friendships, social groups and a sense of belonging. I think this would also end much of the school violence we see. We have too many kids hurting deeply in isolation and not finding a place in their school community.

Things change but some things never go away. There are lonely in high school and in college. There are lonely adults. Sometimes things get worse.

My brother shot himself in the head with a sawed off shotgun at the age of 19 in 1980. Many think it was a split second decision but I wonder if he had considered it as an option during our tumultuous childhood. After all of these years I find myself feeling grief and guilt at not having shared with him how important he was.
We are all interconnected and our actions touch all we have touched.

Bipolar disorder runs in my family. My older brother shot himself at 21 and I saw the bottomless grief and agony it left my parents in. I have known from then that I would never go there. But two more of my siblings have the mental illness and I have received several calls over the years as they made attempts too. I can't know the horrors they must live with to be so hopeless after what we saw. Even when I lost a baby and when my healthy sister had cancer we did not succumb. So the depth of hopelessness must come from within in a way most of us will never understand. But I cannot condemn them for seeing the unthinkable as an option. I just try to hold onto them with love even when they fight and wait and pray for their storms to pass again.

Tomorrow will mark the first anniversary of my daughter's grandmother, Bethany, ending her own life. Bethany wasn't my mother-in-law anymore, but we had a close relationship and I loved her. It was a devestating loss for our family. Looking at the twitterscript I saw a question about handling anger in the aftermath of suicide, but I never felt any anger at Bethany. I lost a dear friend to cancer a couple of years ago, even though her body was cancer-free when she died. She was so weakened from fighting that an infection overtook her. It was the same with Bethany. After decades of fighting her bipolar disorder, the suicide overtook her. I feel a deep, cavernous, wrenching sadness over her absence, but no anger. Also, I don't think philosophy could have saved her. She had a PhD in psychology and in addition to being highly educated was deeply spiritual and I don't think she "believed" in suicide. Intellectually she knew she was loved and wanted, but there are many diseases which can circumvent intellect and bipolar is certainly one of them.

it has been 27 years yesterday, the 'ides of march' that my brother commited suicide. He was a Vietnam vet and was a casuality of that war. I saw him suffer for years, with old friends not wanting to be friends any more, and what he saw as false pretense in our society. What I mean by that is, we live in VT and have little communities with white picket fences, and when he returned from war that all seemed fake to him. He returned home to people who didn't care about his battles in war. My bother and I had several discussions together where he shared some of his horror stories of war, and what our goverment put him through. Although I don't think he had any regretts, he was a warrior who went to war at age 18, trained to do his job. What he could never get over was the lack of respect for what he did. The loss of his old friends.
Today I see his old friends the draft resisters who have made well for themselves, and family. Many of them have plenty of money.... the riches that my brother felt were unavailable to a returning veteran. He suffered for many years after getting home and his choice of suicide broke our framily hearts. I honestly don't think his friends felt that way... instead they felt he was 'crazy'. For me this has left me with a lot anger that I have had to deal with from the day he died. I look at our society and see greed with making money and having power with that money. I see his friends never giving back to society, just keeping all their wealth in their familys. This was the peace/love generation???? too bad so many never learned the meaning of compassion.

It makes sense when you or anyone else says or writes it now - "Stay. You are loved. You are important. Think of your children. Think of the future". But, when you are in that dark place, none of it matters. It is so difficult to understand if you have not been there. Before experiencing "Hell" myself, having experience with others who were depressed, I also thought it was just a matter of "choice" and will power. It is not. No one would choose this. Even now, after escaping, I look back on it and can not comprehend it. I remember it but can not fully grasp where I was. It is unfathomable the amount PHYSICAL pain that can exist in your head. More than childbirth, more than any pain I have ever experienced. After days and days leading to months, you can not take it any longer, you will give up anything to escape it. Whatever rational arguements or reasons others try to give you, it does not matter. They are approaching you from a "normal", healthy mind set and thinking. You are not there! As I said, I can not even comprehend it now. Trying to give logical and rational reasons for living to someone who is suicidal is like trying to explain quantum physics to someone who is mentally challanged. It makes sense to you, you understand it, but they are just INCAPABLE of understanding. That being said, it still is important for others to say these things. Somewhere, inside, even though your brain may be rejecting it, you are feeling it -but it must be combined with treatment. I am not a proponent of medication (did not take even a pain killer for 20 years), but when you are here, you first need to get your mind back to a "normal" place. On the journey back to wellness, having the support and caring of friends, family, and community is vital. Seven years later, friends tell me that they thought I would never be the same again. I tell them that if they had not been there, I would not be here now. The ironic thing is how it ended up changing me for the better. I would never choose to go back and do it over again but I do know that it has forever changed my perspective on life, relationships, and my role in it all.

Thank you for sharing this - it is impossible for many to understand that the world and view of a suicide contemplator is another territory altogether, like a moonscape with little gravity and large pits one can get lost in and the optimism might as well be the orb of earth in the distance, for others and too far for you.
I believe that there is no one answer to why and what one feels before attempting (those that succeed and those that don't) but that most feel both it is more about getting out of the darkness that is their life than getting out of a darkness that is life. However, I am so glad that for you, at least, and I believe it could be for others if help is there in time, this darkness is but part of the journey of their life that leads them ahead for isn't the darkness a sign something needs to change not that something needs to die?

Tomorrow marks 5 years since my teenage son died by hanging in his father's garage. Two years before that, I found him unconscious in his bathroom after swallowing 60 pills - whatever he could find - allergy medicine, dramamine, my prescription 'mood stabilizers.' Those two years were pure hell for me: constantly on the watch, fighting to get him intensive therapy, worrying, never sleeping...with the mantra "don't do it" playing in my head, over and over. I suspected and knew in my heart that he was being emotionally and likely sexually abused by his father - but nobody would listen. The doctors, the court appointed psychologist, all of them fooled by this man who drove ME to the brink of suicide so many years ago...they all were too pc and insisted I was just the vindictive ex wife.

My son was hilarious, the life of the party, beautiful in every way...gifted athlete and friend to hundreds of kids at many schools. Most had no idea of the torment that he kept hidden away - until the binge drinking started, and the rage surfaced from time to time.

He attended a private Christian k-12 school, and the horrific shame and stigma imposed on us was beyond belief. His football coach assured me that the seniors would plan a way to honor him that next fall, but in reality the school leadership determined that because of the 'mortal sin' committed, and the risk of "promoting suicide in others," the coach and his wife came to my home and presented me with his jersey in my living room.

My own reality is that I have experienced the depths of grief - a pain that words don't touch - but I also have experienced incredible joy and relief. Through a series of uncanny synchronicities and undeniable expressions of his energetic presence around me (and in me) I have connected with him through meditation and especially with the aid of gifted mediums who can see and hear him. When I am quiet and clear, sitting on my cushion or hiking alone in the woods, I get "downloads" of love and thoughts that are unmistakably from my son. The gift of this horrible story is my infinitely expanding awareness of the survival of consciousness and our souls beyond the physical death of our bodies. My understanding of our interconnectedness with each other and all beings has led me to connect with so many other mothers who are experiencing the same - the bond of love does not die. The constant message from the other side is that of forgiveness and unconditional love.

18 months after he passed, I was at a poetry workshop with Ellen Bass at Esalen, and I very clearly 'heard' my son say that he had not lost all hope when he "gave up" but rather he could see the light beyond this darkness and suffering, and that he knew we would remain connected forever. In that moment, I grasped that my grief was a small price to pay for my exquisite child's release from his torment and secret prison of abuse. I connect with him constantly now. His personality and sense of humor is very much intact. During readings he relates very specific details about our (mine and his brothers') current lives, and this gives me great comfort. He says he is guiding me and helping me network with other likeminded people so that we can change the attitudes and embedded fear of death in our culture...so that we can live more fully.

Anniversaries are still very hard. I spent most of yesterday crying in my bed. I wish he were still here in the physical, but I am also very grateful to have such an advocate on the other side. My son's suicide has expanded my life immeasurably.

Downloads of love...that is so beautiful. Peace to you mama.

Beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

Your story is the most moving to me because like you, I feel what is at stake is a redefinition of death in our society. I have had so many suicides around me, but the ones that touched me most where when I lost my brother in law to hanging and my mother was in so much pain two years ago that she contemplated suicide. He was clinically depressed and was the sixth one among his friends to decide that the Colombian reality was too much lilke hell to continue living, and decided to end it all, leaving pain, confusion, and heartbreak behind, especially in my sister, who felt she had abandoned him and prompted his hanging. Ten years later, she has managed to walk out of the shadow of grief and regret, but his memory has become a part of who she is forever. My mother, on the other hand, called me one day to tell me she'd rather die than deal with the endless succession of tormented painful, meaningless days. She had lived through three near-death experiences as a child and was not afraid of death in any way, and we were brought up understanding death as the other side of life. Citing her grandchildren as her motive, she finally decided to undergo a very dangerous spinal cord operation and has been dealing with the struggles of recovery, and we do a long-distance phone meditation daily. We have incorporated Macrina Wiederckers's work, Mark Nepo's, and other spiritual texts to our conversations and I think that there is more light in her days now, but I respect now, and respected even then, when she had the impulse to end it all, her right to choose when to die. I sense that same respect and evolution of the understanding of death in your experience after your son's death, and I share your desire for this conversation and our weaving of communal stories and experiences to prompt a differetn view of death, a revised look at suicide, as to how we respond to it as a family, as a community, as an individual, and as to how much these individuals can teach us through their choices. with love, Lina.

As a mother, I totally understand and share every emotion and feeling you have discussed. It has been four years since my son's suicide. But today I feel him in the sunsets, sunrises, full moons and when I score that great parking spot. He shared a love and devotion to Dave Matthews Band, and whenever I hear that music I know John is winking at me. xoxo Take care of yourself.

My mama committed suicide when I was 10 and my brother 9. There's a lot I can say about all that, but I will limit myself to two things. Long ago, my feelings of grief, anger, and abandonment were overwhelmed by compassion for her, and relief that she was no longer suffering. And when I've been low -- which has been often -- suicide was off the table, not an option, because I didn't want to inflict that same pain on my family, especially my dad. In that sense, Mama did her grandchildren, my wife, and my dad a great service, even in death.

I resonate with this. You said in fewer words than I said in my entry below yours. Thank you.

My younger sister committed suicide when she was 20. I was 23. The day she shot herself, I was in labor, giving birth to my first baby. I marveled in the sublime joy of a new baby, perfectly formed, radiant and innocent. Joy was coupled with catastrophic grief. In one direction was golden light. In the other, black shock and terror.

The newly arrived baby brought with him of hope and optimism. I loved him with a tenacious ferocity I'd never known before.

I knew that this was an opportunity for me to learn. I dug my feet in and consciously chose to see it that way.

I felt naked and unprepared for the intensity and the polarity of light and dark. I was pulled to live and pulled to die. I wanted to be with my sister, to protect her as I'd always done. I didn't want to let her go.

I saw that, in order for me to survive, my life had to mean more to me than it ever had before. Suicide runs in my family. Ever since childhood I had considered it an option. It was my secret plan for a way out, if "things got worse."

My sister taught me how important it is to LIVE. I began to take my life seriously, to refuse to live a mediocre life. I began to become responsible for the inner quality of my life.. I began to live authentically. I began to reorganize my life around a higher purpose. It was the beginning of a reverence for life I hadn't had before.

Reverence and gratitude are a daily practice. On the anniversary of my sister's birthdays, 36 years later, I take the day off to contemplate. Last year I walked the Labyrinth. This year I may do that, or a house blessing, or a candlelight meditation. I will praise the miracle that life is. I acknowledge that her action put an end to my madness.

I wrote the following in 2010, reflecting on my father's suicide in 1972:

An online friend of mine is a passionate and intelligent man who reached out to me at a moment of deep grief. He lost his best friend who took his own life in a moment of surrender to despair. "Jim" called me to talk because he knew of my own experience with my father's suicide many years ago.

I was eighteen and Dad was fifty-five. He had moved out of the house when I was nine. I saw him one weekend a month, but many of those days were filled with words unsaid. We didn't have much time for those spontaneous conversations that fill in the jigsaw gaps of who we have become, but it was a gentle silence of mutual love. I knew without a doubt how much my father loved me. All of us kids knew.

When I learned of his suicide, the first thoughts of my young mind were of guilty ownership. Somehow I had contributed to his death. What could I have done to prevent it? My thoughts raced with all the "what ifs." What if I hadn't asked for help with college tuition? His death gave me the benefits that allowed me to stay in school. What if I had told him more how much I loved him? I wasn't alone in that kind of thinking; I learned from his friends that my older brother was convinced that our father couldn't live with the thought of a gay son, which was nonsense. I'm willing to bet my two sisters had similar thoughts of responsibility.

Over time I have come to understand the folly of "what if." We simply don't have that kind of control over what other people do. Control of anything but our own actions is an illusion.

While I can accept now that I could not change the outcome of this event, I still mourn briefly at special moments I have not been able to share with my dad. And a few years ago when my husband and my daughter reached the same ages as in that tragic year, I looked at my daughter's complete devotion to her father and imagined how she would be irrevocably damaged in similar circumstances. Perhaps for the first time I truly allowed my anguish full expression. How could you do that to me? I was so young. I loved you so much. I needed you here.

The devastation of that act has repercussions even today, as I struggle every day to give the ones I love access to my heart. Having been burned to the ground by someone whose love was certain, it has been a long and difficult journey for me to give anyone the power to do so again; and in recent years I have succeeded in keeping the walls down. My husband wields his power gently, and it is a gift without measure.

Jim's best friend left behind similarly devastated loved ones, people who cannot fathom the depth of his despair. We who choose life will never fully understand. There comes a time when we must acknowledge that "I don't know" is a sufficient answer. It is the first step to forgiveness.

Jim and I talked for over an hour. I don't know how much help anyone can provide for such grief, except to say "I'm so sorry." We connect over terrible pain and memories. It is what we must do, for ourselves and for each other.

We come together in our vulnerability. It is our humanity that binds us. Our most difficult moments become our finest as we seek our commonalities, accept our differences, and forgive ourselves and each other. Can we seek those moments of reconciliation with purpose? Can we prevent the pain that leads to thoughts of suicide? Let us try. Let us all move toward life.

One of my best friends took her own life a year ago, leaving behind 3 elementary children. She was an amazingly authentic, curious, joyful until bipolar and schizophrenia started taking over her life about 5 years ago, as if had her mother. She left her husband with kids in tow, lived in a shelter til she was settled, her husband followed her but divorced her, was in and out of treatment, medicated to the point of numbness (not even herself), experienced strange and beautiful visions and relationships but also held down a part time job, and finally, due in part to medication and in whole to her diseases, she decided that she did not want that life for herself or her children, so she emptied her bank account, wrote letters, drove to Wal Mart, bought a gun, and shot herself in her car. IT was a horrible shocking tragedy that we are still coming to terms with a year later.
What has helped me understand and process was explaining this tragedy to my children. First I was shocked. "Mommy is very sad. A friend of mine has died." (They ask "Who? How?" to which I decline to answer) Then a few days later, "You know her, it was ___" (silence) "We are all sad, she was so confused and her brain wasn't working right, and she felt hopeless, thought things would be easier if she wasn't in the world, so she killed herself." ("How did she do it?" (I don't want to talk about that, and still haven't) "She will be missed so much. I'm sure she had no idea how much she meant to us, all of us, her family, her friends, the whole world. Feel how bad it feels in your stomach? How empty? Remember that. Because if YOU start getting to feel really bad, hopeless, you need to know how important, special and loved you are to SO many people. And if you can't remember that, PLEASE PLEASE talk to someone about it and get help" That has been the lesson" for me. We all feel hopeless sometimes. Remembering that the feelings change, and how painful and tragic ilife will be for those we leave behind, has been the positive lesson for me. Also this tragedy has spurred me to fight for tighter gun control and broader mental health support. Preventable tragedies like this happen every day. On the other hand, I do believe in one's right to die.

I barely lived through my second suicide attempt. Know this. It was not an act geared toward anybody who loved me. it certainly was not me taking the "easy way out" or refusing to be "brave" enough to go on. It was about me being too tired to fight the darkness anymore. Survivors, yes, they hurt and they are broken. But let us not speak of them as if they are survivors of an act perpetrated against them, but rather survivors of the same darkness that sadly takes their loved one. There is a point, and I have been there, where a person is not deciding. It is, rather, like walking forward down a narrow gorge with the canyon walls rising straight above you. The only possible way is forward. For people standing on top of the canyon wall to judge a person for moving in the only direction they can see is cold and unfeeling. Those people are cowards who would force their loved one to walk forever through darkness because they fear the darkness of losing them.

" Survivors, yes, they hurt and they are broken. But let us not speak of them as if they are survivors of an act perpetrated against them, but rather survivors of the same darkness that sadly takes their loved one."
This is SO beautiful. As a survivor of suicide, I feel you have given me a great gift in your words. Thank you.

Thank you for sharing this, Rachel.

The timing of this post is a beautiful reminder of synchronicity in my life, and I am so very grateful for the opportunity to share a profound moment of enlightenment I experienced just this morning.

It has been nearly twenty years since my then soon-to-be-ex-husband came to my workplace and, after having flowers delivered, stood in the parking lot, raised his hand, gun to temple, and forever changed the lives of so many. I was 19. The thing about surviving suicide is that you must also grieve many little deaths of your own. The death of life as you know it, the death of your future, once imagined, the death of yourself as you may think you know, and the death of others as you have come to know them. For some, maybe for most, this can be a lifetime of work.

While it can ultimately soften and provide you an extraordinary opportunity to develop the deepest love, compassion, strength, and an almost unbearable lust for life, survival comes first. Survival is about escaping danger. As we navigate the trauma and grief, we learn to hold on to little bits of wisdom given to us along the way- little life boats to help us drift safely through the unthinkable. Things like "the difficulty can be seen as waves- you can't resist them- you can't send them away. Nor can you hold on to them. Like waves on the shore- you must let them come, and you must let them go." I held to this for years. Only recently, however, have I begun to understand that in time, if we want to truly escape danger, if we want truly to Live, we must transition from coping to thriving.

Today I came to understand a poignant and vital distinction: allowing the waves to wash over is helpful for coping with the unimaginable and overwhelming emotion that comes with grief, but to truly survive, is to live, and to live, is to thrive. A gift arrived in my inbox this morning- I was given an alternative perspective on waves. Now that I am no longer hugging the shore, the waves are bigger, and consequently, can be far more dangerous. Or they can be part of a wonderful adventure and practice of courage and grace under pressure! Like when playing in the surf, at a certain point the waves are so big, they are so powerful, that the ONLY way to avoid being crushed or thrashed about and completely disoriented by them, is to dive in to the wave.

Dive in.

The years of coping and self-protecting that follow surviving suicide makes this truth, at first, very hard to fully understand. Yet it is certainly the next step in my evolution. I know it in my bones, though it is frightening and I can feel my cells resist the necessary movements required. It is indeed time to Dive In. All of life's challenges aren't suicides! Life is hard, but life after suicide is unique, it is its own thing, with its own set of rules. They cannot be approached similarly, indefinitely. This feels to me like a critical turn in my healing and growth, the critical step in moving on from the past; finally understanding how to separate life after suicide, from LIFE after suicide. It is the transition from coping to thriving. Transitioning from mindful allowing to fully and mindfully participating. Coming to know and trust that I have already survived! I don't need to keep struggling in that familiar and "life-preserving" way. The danger has passed, and I am ready to face challenges in THIS lifetime that might allow me to find that place I keep searching for- that place where I feel I "fit" in my life.

For those of you just beginning this journey- my heart breaks and aches for you, and I can't even for a minute imagine that I have useful advice for you. It is your unique experience. But you are not alone; if nothing else, do not believe in the lie you will surely be tempted by; that you are alone, that you are separate from the world because of this experience. There is peace and there is joy and there is connection like you have never known, that will come to as you come through this. I am no-one to you, I know, but I promise. Suicide might be one of the absolute darkest sides of life- but it can illuminate unimaginable beauty, as well, in time. A brutal teacher, but in the end the lessons are treasures.
A life is lost, and it is tragic. It is senseless. For those left behind, however, it doesn't have to be forever dark, or forever still.

Thank-you for sharing this message of hope with me. Three and a half months ago my beloved wife of eight and a half years took her life with a handgun. At times the pain and confusion that I feel fit the description of the waves you describe. Your message has given me some measure of comfort and hope. Thank-you.

I am speechless, and have been meditating on this all week. I spoke of, and am so very captivated by synchronicity. My friend, I find it incredible that my then husband's name was Steve. What a kind offering from the universe- to give to me an opportunity to help another, in however a small way, and then to receive confirmation somehow that I have done more good than bad. I have carried a ton of weight in guilt, and shame, and in the end, in a moment of synchronous grace, it is lifted. Believe in bigger things, Steve. You are on a new path, and it will take you to beautiful places you could never imagine, but the ride is unbelievable. I am so so sorry for your loss. Just hold on, hold on just tight enough to stay safe, and otherwise, let go. Let go and stay open. I wish you all the best. And I thank you.

While logically I understand that it wasn't any one person's fault, I struggle with the emptiness left behind in Kevin's absence and with the lack that he might have felt from his community that made his suicide a viable option. Could we have supported him more than we did? I don't know. What I do know is he is greatly, greatly missed.

For anyone on the suicide journey of grief and recovery, I would recommend my book: Note to Adam by Becky Kruse, available at barnesandnoble.com. All profits go to suicide awareness. I truly did not think I would live after we lost our 22-year old college student "out of the blue." People have asked if I'm ashamed of Adam: never, not once, did I experience pain. My mother died of breast cancer, my son died of depression. He held the gun but depression pulled the trigger. Our family has changed dramatically since the summer of 2007 and I can only hope that our journey will help someone contemplating suicide.

All my life (I'm 51) I told people "if you ever find me dead, you'd better start a murder investigation, because I would NEVER take my own life." So imagine my shock last August when I found myself contemplating suicide. It was a strange, short road that got me there, and I didn't realize where it was headed. When I suddenly recognized the place to which my thoughts had brought me, I was terrified. Luckily I was already seeing a therapist, and I worked up the nerve to confess my thoughts to her. I got through that time - what saved me, quite honestly, were my two children. I know what the suicide of a parent can do to a child for the rest of his/her life (my brother-in-law's mother committed suicide), and I couldn't do that to my children. They were literally the only reason I stayed alive and made myself endure the emotional pain I was in. I think I would recognize the signs now if I started heading that way again, and I would take steps earlier to avoid the desperation that was driving me to think of killing myself.

We have experienced the suicide of 5 family members, including my ex-husband when my children were 8 and 11. I am constantly frustrated by discussions focused on the depressives and what we must do to help them. There is rarely a discussion of the effect of depression on the family, the ongoing effects of suicide, and how a family manages to survive and THRIVE post-suicide. I long for an honest discussion about dealing with a depressed spouse/parent and the constant threat and fear of suicide. Also a h honest discussion of how to handle a suicide and the nature of surviving.

Kim S: I am so sorry that you have had to face the aftershocks of five suicides. There is actually some sources of support and books out there that are very helpful. First, online there is the alliance for hope website and forum for survivors. Second, there are some great books, such as The Suicide Index, No Time to Say Goodbye by Carla Fine, Didion's Year of Magical Thinking (not suicide but profound grief), Darkness Falls Fast by Kaye Redfield Jamison. In Chicago, I will be forever grateful to the LOSS Program (Loving Outreach to Survivors
of Suicide) began by a Catholic Priest, Father Rubey, and offering non-denominational support to loved ones, families, children, friends in various locations in the Chicago area and with groups for spouses, children, siblings, guilt, all free. It has archived newsletters with some helpful articles at http://www.catholiccharities.net/GetHelp/OurServices/Counseling/Loss.aspx. And there is a new blog by three young women who met at the LOSS program called Our Side of Suicide that has some painful but honest posts sharing the journey through the grief. Surviving is raw, shattering, but doable.

I considered suicide in 2010 when I was at my sickest, coping with an ongoing illness that doctors couldn't diagnose. I was unable to keep weight on, felt perpetually sick, could eat only certain foods, and with a depressed immune system, was frequently sick (colds, pneumonia, sinus infections). I tried to stay on my feet and go to work as often as I could. My family was in the Midwest while I lived alone in California. My mom talked to me on the phone each week. So-called friends disappeared when I just wanted to be with someone. I went to doctors and finally pain doctors and begged for help. They analyzed me for an hour and a half and then told me to make an appointment to come back a week later. A week later?! I lay on the living room floor of my dark studio and ranted at my body. If I did anything, I wanted to be sure it would work. A therapist I'd seen sometimes intervened and offered me free appointments. She carried me through some dark days. Love for my mom no longer mattered. Illness had taken over like a stranger and made me unrecognizable to myself. I realized that I had to matter to me. Three and a half years later I am in many ways healthier than I was before the illness. Art, meditation, prayer, writing, and being my own best friend were key. I feel closer to my family, to God and to myself. Two new, solid friends appeared in my life when I wasn't looking. But I'm still my own best friend.

The four year anniversary of my son's suicide just passed on March 7. Although the weight is not as heavy today, the hole in my heart will be exposed forever. My son's story was the perfect storm of addiction to painkillers, depression, and trying to manage Avascular Necrosis of his hips. My son drove his car into a massive utility pole on a country road in Indiana, died on impact, and perished in the resulting fire. The ripple effect of our tragedy caused heartache and at times seemingly unbearable grief as we have all been left to navigate our individual and collective journey(s). I have a Master's in Human Relations in Counseling, however the book knowledge and objective advice and counsel readily available in my skills sets seem to have abandoned me in the beginning. My personal grief therapy inspired me to create www.bearingmemories.com to honor my son, and connect with others who have lost someone (or celebrate a loved one). My son's story is on my website. Thank you for your program and sensitivity to this illness.

The four year anniversary of my son's suicide was March 7th. I am always relieved when this day on the calendar passes. Although the weight is not as heavy as it was in the beginning, the hole in my heart will be exposed forever. My son's illness was the perfect storm of depression, addiction to prescribed painkillers and the attempt to manage Avascular Necrosis of both hips, (trauma caused by injury as an ice hockey goalie). My son, age 25, drove his car into a massive utility pole on a country road in Indiana. He died on impact and perished in the fire. Our tragedy and the ripple effect felt by family and friends has left us all to navigate this see of sadness both collectively and individually. I have a Master's in Human Relations; however textbook knowledge and the readily available counsel and skills sets I offer others seemed to vanish when I needed to come to accept and understand my son's struggle. As a mother, I could not save him. My personal grief was the inspiration to create http://bearingmemories.com to honor my son, and to connect and celebrate with other families.
Thank you for your program, the raised awareness to this illness and the sensitivity to survivors.

As Christmas drew near in 1997 clouds obscured the moon, rain fell in frozen drops, people repaired to their homes and the topography of my life was forever altered. For reasons known but to her and to her God my intelligent, talented, beautiful, demure and troubled wife Jody killed herself.

I knew something of the demons that preyed upon Jody. I was aware of some of the childhood memories that tormented her. I understood the things about her that I was capable of understanding. I loved her. I supported her in the ways that she allowed me to support her. I failed her in the large and small ways that humans often fail the ones that they love. We loved and cared for one another in the manner that each of us could.

Psychology, Psychiatry, Theology and Sociology, if I were to study them, would expand my intellectual understanding of suicide. The causes of suicidal behavior may become clear to me one day but it does not seem likely that I will ever find a satisfactory answer to the more cerebral question: "Why?"

Suicide brings to the survivor losses that lie beyond the passing of his loved one. Some of my most cherished hopes, ideas and aspirations went to the grave with my beloved Jody. I forgive her for taking from me some of the pleasant fictions upon which I had based my hopes

I forgive Jody. As sure as the sun rises in the east I forgive her for ending her life. I forgive her because there is immense value in forgiveness. I forgive her because I knew her well and can concede that her soul was wrapped in more chain than it could swim with.

As thoroughly as I forgive her I cannot pardon her. She did, after all is said and done, murder my wife. In this soul crushing story the victim and the perpetrator are one and the same.

So I rise each day at first light. I stop for coffee, the newspaper and a pack of cigarettes. I go to work. I put on a "face to meet the faces that I meet". I return home. I read, sleep and prepare to repeat the process when the next day arrives.

And I pray that Jody rests in the lap of the Lord happy, joyous and free..

I attempted to take my life many years ago despite many obvious blessings. I was married to a man who lost his son to suicide. I do not have the words to describe the pain that takes one to the point of making the decision to end life I live with regret for the damage and hurt my choice caused the people I loved most: my children. . I am grateful and humbled that I survived, saved by someone perhaps even more troubled than I was. Alternatively, I will never forget those who treated me badly, who judged me. I am on the safe side of events and my heart goes out to the dear ones who do not get there.

I think the thing that many people don't understand is that there are as many reasons for choosing to die as there are ways to die. Not all suicides are the same, nor should they all be considered in the same light. Some people may not understand that they actually do have the support they need to live and maybe make a mistake by choosing to die, but others may truly be reckoning with their existence and decide that the best choice for them is to not continue on the path of the living.

I lost the privilege of living in the company of a best friend and former lover just over eleven years ago now. It has been a long journey for me since then of discovering what it was that I actually lost, and what stays with me of his life. I forgave him instantly and in the first moments of knowing he had died, only wished I had been able to be there with him, to hold his hand as he left. I regret that for obvious reasons, this is not possible in our society, because it would be considered akin to a form of murder. It has been in the years since that I have had to reflect on how I may have contributed to his death, how I may not have been there for him in the ways he needed. I miss him always, and still grieve his passing, and yet I don't blame him for going.

I do however have anger towards a psychiatric establishment that would not admit him into their care though he had adequate insurance and was trying to check himself in. To my understanding of what occurred he was considered too sane, because he was salient enough to check himself in. However, in my years of experience in supporting friends with so called bipolar disorder, if they are in a moment of clarity willing to submit to an institution to save themselves, they damn well better be admitted. If they are willing to do so, it is a sign not of their ability to cope, but of their ability to understand how truly dire their situation is. I am also quite angry that they not only wouldn't admit him, but sent him home with the sleeping pills that he ultimately used to take his life. I wish to help build a society in which this is not how people in need are treated. I'm not sure what better legacy I can offer him.

I hope to see a deeper reckoning in our society of the realities of this way of death. It is one of many ways people can die, and it is in fact an option that we all must contend with at some moment of our living existence. I think most of us quickly dismiss it, some of us contemplate it seriously but ultimately decide to live our lives out until their fated ends, and a few decide it is what they want, or perhaps what they need. It is a complex circumstance, as complex as any life choice.

Do not misunderstand, this is a painful way to lose a loved one's life, and many who choose this way of death are deeply troubled and wounded. And yet, let us not cast unnecessary judgement upon the deceased that stops us from examining the heart of the matter and learning deeper truths about the meaning of this gift of life we all share and how to better care for it.

I don't know what happens to our beings after we die, but I have always had a sense that my friend is in less pain than he was in this life. He may still have to learn the lessons that he cut off short here on earth, but he is safe and he is loved. And also I understand "he" in the way I knew him is clearly gone. As Laurie Anderson said, "When my father died/ it was like a whole library/ had burned down." Our loved ones will never return to us in this life in the form we knew them in, and yet what are we left with? Instead of his being concentrated in one particular place, I have this peculiar and yet somehow natural sense, that he is now everywhere.

My hope is that something I shared will be of benefit to others.

Elegant and thoughtful explanation of this existential question, Megan. Thank you for writing it.

I lost my brother to suicide on Jan. 8, 2013. He was 49 years old. Unless a person has experienced this kind of loss for themselves, I have found it very hard to describe the depth of pain that I feel. He had attempted suicide several times throughout his life, but this last time he succeeded. He suffered with depression and pain, and in his note that he left, he said he thought this was best for him to do. He said he couldn't take it anymore. I know that he is complete and free now and for that, I find comfort. I don't think he realized at the time just how much he was loved and would be missed. He was on a lot of medication...a lot of pain killers, and that's what he used to kill himself. Every time I see a little boy now, I always pray that he knows and grows up knowing, just how wonderful he really is. I miss my brother so much and the depth of my pain is unbearable at times. I know that I am not alone in feeling this way, and that too, brings me comfort....knowing that I am not alone.

2 members of my family committed suicide. 1 a doctor, the other a teenager. It was rumored that there is a predisposition caused by heredity .
what is the opinion regarding this.

I had a cousin commit suicide when I was a young girl, he was 19 or so. I have also attempted suicide on many occasions. I am now 50 with a 13 year old son who is a peer mediator at school and has been given the gift of a great program at his school called The Gatekeeper program which encourages students to be mindful and watchful and to act if a person they know is suicidal. I loved this talk today, how often we forget that it is NOT just us on this planet as individuals trying heroically to conquer our darkness but our connections, our loved ones, and how we turn our mind to better times, even and especially in deep depressioon. Thank you both for a wonderful program.

I despise cultish idealism. It's reasonable to expect people to try and live and heal and get better up to a point. However, saccharin phrases about "light" and "hope" are all about others' inability to deal with death and illness and is very often, in my experience, as oppressive to the afflicted as the disease. Expecting people to suffer for the sake of others is incredibly selfish. It also speaks to the "savior" complex of Western Society and indicates a sense of privilege that most of the world doesn't share. Is the schizophrenic homeless man, who has no family, in any of your "secret webs?" I doubt it. And if he is, is it fair to expect him to suffer indefinitely so you can feel better about yourself for putting change in his cup?