This past week has been incredibly hard for me personally and also for my family. A dear friend tried to take her own life and came close to succeeding. Another friend’s son was killed. And our nephew ended his life, leaving the whole family blindsided by shock and grief.
How do you process so much sadness? How do you get through to the other side? And most of all, how can you keep someone from making that irreversible choice?
Mary had some things to say about it on Facebook, so I can’t link to it here.
One thing that I keep coming back to is the innumerable times I have heard of someone who came perilously close to taking his/her own life, and what stopped them? Someone else being kind to them. Just that. Did the other person know that the recipient of their kindness was suicidal? No. In some cases, the two people barely knew each other. Often, the truth doesn’t come out till years later, if at all, but do you realize what that means?
What it means is that if you are consistently kind to the people in your life, you may be shining a light into a dark place you don’t even know is there. You may never know. To me, this is wonderful news! As I like to tell people, kindness is free! It doesn’t cost you anything.
If you are young and you know a girl at school who sits by herself, why not be her self-appointed guardian angel? Be kind to her. Talk to her and show interest in her life. Of course, you should be kind to everyone, but go to special effort for those who don’t seem to have a support system in place. What if they try to push you away? Just remember that often the people who need love the most work hardest at pushing it away. Don’t let them prove their belief that no one cares by letting them be successful in pushing you away. Don’t give up on them.
Last night at our Christmas party, one of my friends showed up with a teenage girl who was a total stranger to me. I was a little puzzled until my friend had a chance to tell me her story. She (my friend) had signed up for a mentorship program to benefit kids from difficult backgrounds. This girl was her “mentee.” She lives with her grandmother (her mom’s not in the picture) and her father recently got out of jail. They spent the afternoon baking cookies to bring to the party. This sweet young girl had never made cookies before. She had also never been to a party, never got to sing Christmas carols like we did last night. I am SO glad my friend brought her. To everyone else there, it was one enjoyable party among many. To that girl, it was the only party of her life. My friend’s kindness is making a huge difference in that young life—maybe the difference between life and death, someday. It takes so little effort to shine the light of kindness into another person’s life. So little.
What if you’re the one contemplating a final escape from your seemingly endless misery? That is a tougher situation, for sure. I almost never mention this, but I walked right up to that line once in my youth. I stood there for hours, and obviously ended up stepping back. Two things stopped me. One was that I chose to spend my final hours listening to my favorite hymns. Listening for hours to various assurances of God’s love and care for me definitely had an impact. The other factor was my realization that my mother would most likely be the one to find me, and I found I was unwilling to do that to her.
For me, that was a one-time decision. I wrestled with whether or not to follow through all night, and when I made the choice to live, it was made for all time. When morning came, I felt like my life had been handed back to me. I went through some very deep waters after that, but I always hung on to my certainty that God loved me and would not let me go. I never had to go through that particular struggle again–but some people do. Over and over and over.
To some of them, no assurance of God’s love and care is going to seem real enough. They need to interact with someone who has skin on. That might be you. If you’re the one who feels that the only way out is all the way out, please reach out and talk to someone. Call a suicide hotline, your pastor, a sympathetic relative, anyone. Fight to stay alive. If talking to one person doesn’t help, try someone else. No valley, no matter how deep, is permanent. It’s hard to remember that when you’re there, so you have to fight to get out. Please fight. Reach out to someone else who is struggling and help them in their own fight. Don’t give up. Get help. Fight to get help if you have to.
That same friend who brought her young mentee to the party last night once tried to take her own life too. Once she had been stabilized physically, she had to fight to stay alive. She checked herself into a mental health facility and got some help. Please, if you need help, do whatever it takes to get it. Don’t give up. Promise me you won’t give up. If you know me personally, call me. Call someone.