“Did you ever walk up
To the edge of a cliff,
Stare into the abyss
As your mind wonders if
You should take one more step
Further into that night?
Well, your mind says you won’t
But your heart says you might.
Would you fall through the dark
Feel the wind in your hair?
Would you embrace the ground
Ending your life right there?
Or would God reach his hand
In that moment you fly?
Or if he chanced to blink
And then, that moment you die…”
Epiphany, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, from the album Night Castle
Yes. I have walked up to the edge of a cliff and stared into the abyss as my mind wondered if I should take one more step…these lyrics are part of a longer interconnecting story written by the creator of the TSO and have to do with a young soldier who is in war…that aside, these lyrics speak to me personally, and have. They are speaking to me again, now because the topic of taking one’s life has been sparked by a great synchronicity.
Dave has a friend whom he doesn’t communicate with often, and just a few days ago she reached out to him for healing, speaking to him of a great tragedy. Her grandson, who was only 19, committed suicide a few weeks back and she is now grieving heavily with her surviving grandsons. Her children are gone (a unfortunate case of overdose and another suicide), so the grandsons are all she has. Now, I’ve seen Dave and (I’ll call her “D” for confidentiality) were friends on Facebook, but that’s about it; I never have met her in person nor on Facebook. Anyway, her story was so overwhelmingly heart-wrenching that I felt completely compelled to write to her and express my deepest and most sincere condolences. She was moved by my words and thanked me much. She then went on to explain how she follows Dave and I on Facebook and absolutely adores our relationship along with our many adventures. This is coming from a seventy-three year old woman who never even made eye contact with us yet knows our age difference! The humble generosity of some people is something I am eternally grateful for.
Anyway… D explained the entirety of the situation in detail, but I found it highly disturbing and don’t wish to write it here. The importance of this post doesn’t lie in those facts anyway. What matters to me and moves me the most is the sad fact that in general, so many young people take their lives over situations that could be overcome with some counselling, talking, and above all just listening by others, even a stranger. These young people perhaps may even just need a little extra love in their lives as it may not have been an emotion received as an infant, toddler or child.
In today’s ridiculously fast-paced society where a main chunk of our focus is on work, family, technology, attaining high grades, achieving high stats in sports, etc. there’s not much attention given to socio-emotional development. Now, when you’re a preschooler and during the first few years of elementary school, there’s emphasis given to children to integrate and be social, while learning how to get along with others properly. Yet, to me it seems so…mainstream. It’s as if the same techniques have been used over and over again, the basics so to speak, that the emotion in teaching children about emotion, has been eliminated! We teach them to be social, and we teach them manners, proper ways to interact. But, do we teach them what to do when feeling hurt deep down? In a way, yes. Talk to a parent, guardian, or teacher the answer might be. But then what? How are we to manage and work with these powerful, sometimes frightening emotions? As children grow older, they can have a tendency to become rebellious- wanting to act “tough” or “cool” because their peers are. So, soft emotions are thrown to the back burner where they are to be buried since appearing rough and tough is higher up on the priority list in order to fit in.
If a teen or young adult does end up attending counselling sessions, do they really feel heard? Is there success? I’m not sure. I can’t say as I’ve only went to one counselor in college, and I gained absolutely nothing, as the particular individual who was listening to me gave off strong vibes of, ‘I’m going to pretend to care and ask all the right questions, but really I’m not caring and think you’re messed up and there’s no help be gotten here.’ As disappointed as I was, I know I certainly cannot speak for all counselors out there, and that was only one hour of one day! What I’m getting at though, is that sometimes, for someone deeply troubled, going to sessions like that might not cut it. They can be drawn out to where getting to the heart of the issue can take weeks, and as the sessions pile up, so do the payments. In the end, that person that went to get help may very well end up more confused than when they set foot in the door!
What the issue boils down to is this: not enough children/teens/young adults and yes, even older adults, are being truly heard. They are conditioned by society, peer pressure and unfortunate circumstances such as family trouble to stuff the sad away. You’re to grin and bear it so you can make it out, move on and not be inhibited by the suffering. I cannot speak for the young man who recently took his own life, but based on his situation, I believe that’s something that could have helped him, maybe even saved him- being heard and told that it’s okay to let out emotions like sadness and anger and frustration. The key to overcoming all of those isn’t tossing the blanket over them, it’s really feeling them, in the moment, as they’re happening without reacting in a harmful way. When feeling extraordinarily troubled, call someone, meet up and just let it all out; a true friend and confidant certainly won’t judge. Once the emotion is out, talk. Just talk. Don’t worry about making sense…Dave and I like to use the phrase, “barf on the table” when referencing getting something out. So, yes, get with someone and just barf on the table; the mess can be cleaned up later and you’ll feel much better. That will be a big step in getting back on track to work at the issue that caused the sadness or whatever emotion and then the inevitable barf.
Another issue with letting emotion show is fear. Fear goes along with having that facade as “tough guy”. Meaning, if someone thinks that in order to fit into a certain group they have to be this way or that way, then they’ll be afraid of acting any other way as they might become rejected if they show weakness. Darwin in action on all the wrong levels.
It’s okay to feel sad! The movie, Inside Out portrays this concept wonderfully! Instead of stifling sadness, just let sadness be and she’ll do all right…she might even save the day if given the chance! Yet, if only reacting to anger, then a person will on go further away from others, themselves and the issue at hand; nothing gets solved when hiding from what you’re really feeling.
So what can we do? There’s already suicide prevention week. There’s a hotline to call…there’s counselors…yet these things, no matter how emphasized they are, don’t seem to be enough- the glass is only half full and always is. Why can’t we fill the glass completely with helpfulness so more young lives can be saved?
One small, yet significant thing you can do is simply reach out. Even if it’s a stranger that you see struggling or appearing down. Ask them how they are…but, go deeper, ask them what they are dealing with and not if, but how you can help. Encourage children/teens/young adults to go to a parent. Express to them that what you are feeling and why. Ask them for help.
I didn’t get that opportunity. After my thoughts slowed and the difficult situation passed that made me feel that down, I attempted to bring it up to my parents. My mother felt and showed no sympathy only responding harshly saying that, “if you ever play that suicide card again, you’ll really need help”. No mom, I needed your help when I was suffering. Some of that suffering was caused by your words in the moment- your actions. I wouldn’t have blamed you, but even if I did in the heat of the moment, you could have looked past that and actually asked me what was going on. Even after everything passed…you could have talked with me.
This was an extremely difficult situation for me, but I learned from it and gained insight that could potentially help others. I’m not blaming my mother now, and by no means am I saying that she is a poor mother. Absolutely not. I’m just putting the facts out there, and explaining that she could have gone a different, more helpful route. Again, all anyone needs to do is reach out to a friend, family member, anyone who is seriously down. Stay with them, no matter how okay they say they are. Listen. Tell them that no matter what, they will get through what they are going through, then offer advice to help and follow up on it. Follow up with them frequently and above all, let them know they are loved!
It doesn’t take much to be generous and show genuine love. Too many people are cold and careless- caught up in their own world, too blinded to see beyond themselves to help others. I have taken time to be with friends who were contemplating suicide. And I truly believe, even though they didn’t express it at the time, that I made a difference and had a positive impact on their lives. Dave and I will continue to help D and her surviving grandson, as they both seek guidance in this fragile time. We will be there for them to listen and lend a hand as needed.
Life is beautiful. Life is joy. Life is a privilege that’s meant to be played out to the fullest. Life can be filled to the brim with happiness, laughter, joy and celebration. Life is meant to be honored.
Richard Dawkins eloquently describes the privilege of being alive, and not being afraid of natural death in this spoken section in the final song of Nightwish’s most recent album, Endless Forms Most Beautiful:
“We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will, in fact, never see the light of day outnumber the sands of the Sahara. Certainly, those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people.
In the teeth in these stupefying odds, it is you and I in our ordinariness that are here. We privileged few who won the lottery of birth against all odds, how dare we whine at our inevitable return to that prior state from which the vast majority never stirred?”
Let us live and be thankful for life and all the goodness, astounding beauty, abundant blessings and joy that it brings. All of the good can outweigh the bad.