Suicide debates rage

Wow. I never realized all the responses that my post on “Suicide” would garner me. Again, I am not proud of my tendencies toward suicidal actions. I have some opinions on the following comments that I’ll reserve until afterward.

First, a comment from Amy:

“My brother committed suicide via hanging in our garage. My parents will never be the same some 17 years later.

Suicide is selfish and to be brutally honest, if you are going to do it do it somewhere where your dearest family and friends will not find you first. The aftermath and lingering nightmares are just too much.”

A follow-up comment from Anna:

“Amy,

I have attempted suicide, unsuccessfully; my sister killed herself, my grandfather killed himself with arsenic, my sister-in-law's mother gassed herself, my step-father's mother took an overdose. We do suicide in my family. All of us have been severely affected by it; I still cry at the thought of walking into my sister's flat and finding the dried pool of blood – an image I will never get out of my head, some 15 years later.

I have kept myself alive through all the pain because I have 3 children who I could not bear the thought of damaging in that way; I have been living for them, not for me.
However, I have tremendous sympathy for all those who attempt or succeed at committing suicide – I say succeed with emphasis. Any person who has ever felt the depths of despair of not being able to face another hour of the intolerable pain of deep depression, would understand the longing to end that pain. Living through it takes an unselfishness which is arguably admirable, arguably the biggest form of self-harm and denial possible. For someone to continue to live with that pain so as to avoid giving someone else the pain of grieving is not necessarily the kindest act; watching your loved one living (or rather "existing") with the pain of depression is arguably as bad, if not worse, than grieving for their death. They are existing in hell for that period of time it takes for them to crawl out of that hell. Nobody wants the person they love to live in hell – why keep them there???

Who is being selfish: the person who takes their life to end their suffering, or the person who watches that person suffering day in day out and doesn't want them to die because they themselves cannot stand the idea of their own grief and suffering when their loved one commits suicide? I personally cannot "judge" which person is being the more selfish.
I wouldn't want my worst enemy to have to endure that pain, day in day out, and to know that the only reason they are keeping themselves alive is for my benefit. Ultimately each of us has the choice to live or die and that choice deserves respect and compassion, not condemnation.

I understand that families left behind are often distraught as my own family has been; I have been, but I also understand why someone does it. If you can develop that understanding, it eases the pain, lessens the blame and enables all who are affected to feel compassion – a vital element in loving and being loved.”

In response to Amy’s comment, when I was a teen, I considered hanging myself from a ceiling fan/vent in the middle of the hallway in my parents’ house. Then I thought of my father walking in the house only to see his only child dangling from the ceiling dead. The horror of my father’s grief was enough to make me think twice. I knew I was his prized possession and that he’d be on a faster track to lose his mind if I was dead. (That or it would have fueled his paranoia and he’d assume that someone had killed me.) I can understand her position to commit suicide away from family, i.e. drowning or a car crash.

Now, in response to Anna’s comment, I – perhaps unfortunately – agree with many of her points. Just to state for the record: I am not suicidal at this time. But her line of thinking is very much what I experience during my “downward spiral”:

“Any person who has ever felt the depths of despair of not being able to face another hour of the intolerable pain of deep depression, would understand the longing to end that pain. Living through it takes an unselfishness which is arguably admirable, arguably the biggest form of self-harm and denial possible. For someone to continue to live with that pain so as to avoid giving someone else the pain of grieving is not necessarily the kindest act; watching your loved one living (or rather "existing") with the pain of depression is arguably as bad, if not worse, than grieving for their death. They are existing in hell for that period of time it takes for them to crawl out of that hell. Nobody wants the person they love to live in hell – why keep them there???

I can’t explain the many times that I’ve tried to argue this point with friends and family. Suicide definitely is an act of selfishness, no doubt. But aren’t friends and family just as selfish to want to keep someone alive who clearly doesn’t want to live?

For example, if a person was suffering in pain with terminal cancer – you know he’d die eventually – would you rather see him continue to suffer just so you can have him around or would you allow him to die? (This gets into the tricky area of euthanasia.)  Like Anna has explained – quite well – “Any person who has ever felt the depths of despair… would understand the longing to end that pain.” Most people haven’t been through that pain so the majority of people can’t understand that line of thinking, let alone fathom it. Why watch someone consistently struggle with suicide than just allow him to end his life in peace?

I suppose I am arguing pro-suicide, in a sense. But let me reiterate that this is the line of thinking that a suicidal person experiences.

“Who is being selfish: the person who takes their life to end their suffering, or the person who watches that person suffering day in day out and doesn't want them to die because they themselves cannot stand the idea of their own grief and suffering when their loved one commits suicide? I personally cannot "judge" which person is being the more selfish.”

I’m interested to hear other people’s opinions on this: which one is more selfish?

“I wouldn't want my worst enemy to have to endure that pain, day in day out, and to know that the only reason they are keeping themselves alive is for my benefit. Ultimately each of us has the choice to live or die and that choice deserves respect and compassion, not condemnation.”

Man, oh man, I can think of a ton of people I can’t stand and Anna’s right; I would never wish daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly despair and suicidal attempts on anyone. I’d equate the despair for someone to end his life to Chinese torture: both would drive anyone insane.

In terms of condemnation from a Christian point of  view, I’m not sure which way to go on this. From a Biblical standpoint, murder is not favorably looked upon, i.e. “Thou shalt not kill.” However, in many instances of the Bible, as in the case of Job, Elijah, and Jonah, they’ve all asked for death from God and He never granted their requests. The two instances of suicide in the Bible are King Saul, hand-picked by God to be the first king of Israel, and Judas, one of the 12 apostles. King Saul’s suicide is a raging debate and many people believe that at the end of his life he either wasn’t a true believer in God or was a believer that fell by the wayside. Other Christians say Saul “lost” his salvation.

Judas’ suicide seems to be a little more clear-cut in some ways, but debate rages on his salvation too. Jesus hand-picked Judas to be his “betrayer” before Jesus’ crucifixion, which leads some people to believe that Judas was a believer who simply reveled in his sin of greed. Others believe that Judas’ life showed no evidence of commitment to Jesus and his constant greed overpowered his need for a Messiah. Once Jesus was crucified, Judas had a change of heart and tried to return the money that he’d betrayed Jesus for. This is the only instance in the Bible where Judas seems to show a sign of “repentance.” His realization that he led to Jesus’ death leads him to a remorse so great that he goes and hangs himself. Could Judas have repented at the very end of his life and realized that he just caused the death of the Son of God? That’s very possible. But he also could have been feeling bad that he caused the murder of a guy he hung out with for about three years. No one will really ever know until the afterlife. But, again, there are groups who will say that Judas is damned to hell and lost his chance once he betrayed Jesus. I can’t help but think that Jesus included Judas when he said, “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.”

“If you can develop that understanding [of why someone commits suicide], it eases the pain, lessens the blame and enables all who are affected to feel compassion – a vital element in loving and being loved.”

The shock, grief, and anger of someone’s suicide are normal. At the same time, loved ones take the suicide personally as if a person took his own life exclusively to punish them. Most people will never understand the motives that drive someone to commit suicide, but at the same time, loved ones need to understand and realize it is not an act to offend them or punish them. Suicide is person’s way of ending the despair in his life – a way of euthanizing the terminal cancer growing within him.

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1 Comment

  1. Natalie said,

    December 7, 2008 at 7:24 pm

    Storm chasers came to town to fix hail damage at car dealerships in my area. One of their wives, cute as a button and delightful personality became a regular for 4 months at my store. She was so normal, down to earth, never bad mouthed anyone, never complained. Talked about going to Niagra for the weekend for a work break; and after they were finished in my area she was going to Hawaii for a vacation. A few weeks ago I got word she blew her head off after returning hom. Stunned and not believing the news I searched the net and sure enough she had died. I’m so dazed because she was flawless! I guess not after all!


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