This article comes from friend and co-worker Emily Ostrowski. Emily is a suicide prevention counselor working with an organization that helps youth dealing with suicidal ideation. I think you’ll find what she’s offered here both helpful and moving.
In Infinite Jest, renowned author David Foster Wallace, who tragically took his own life in 2008, compares suicide to a trapped person jumping out of a burning building. Wallace writes, “Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames.” He goes on to note that, “Nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.”
That idea of the hapless bystander unable to help or understand is one I’ve struggled with ever since volunteering as a suicide prevention counselor this past April. Continue reading Suicide: Offering Help to Those Feeling Hopeless, and Accepting Our Limitations – a guest post by Emily Ostrowski
I have at least two more posts to share with all of you on the subject of suicide. This one comes from a woman, Julie Heidingsfelder, who is a member in our meeting. Julie has been impacted by the suicides of her grandfather and aunt. We are telling these stories because we think it’s important to reflect on the nature of suicide and how it impacts our lives. We are telling these stories because they’re important threads in our lives that have challenged and changed us.
Continue reading Sucide: Defined By Life – a guest post by Julie Heidingsfelder
This post was written in 2010 for Peggy’s Personal blog “A Silly Poor Gospel” after the death of Friend and member of Freedom Friends Church of which she was then the pastor. Peggy’s ministry has been important to me over the years and this post is no different. J. who this post is about was a friend, Quaker and someone who features prominently in my dissertation.
Continue reading Suicide: The Devil’s Own Loaves & Fishes – a guest post by Peggy Parsons
This post continues the theme of reflecting on suicide and its impact in our lives. It is written by Aaron Scott, a close friend, biblical scholar, poverty initiative activist, and all around awesome person. She lost her grandpa earlier this year to mental illness, here is some of Aaron and her grandpa’s story.
My grandpa committed suicide in early February of this year. He had slipped rapidly into a hallucinatory and paranoid form of dementia (after his death, a doctor suggested lewy body dementia). Between the quick onset of the illness and the agonizing slowness of the health care system to respond to our family’s requests for help, he ended up going without care for much too long. There’s more to say about all of that. But today I am wondering about: how past experiences and political realities shape people’s experiences of paranoia (especially when their minds are coming undone).
Grandpa served 32 years in the US Air National Guard. He was never deployed, but his unit was activated during the Cuban Missile Crisis and his base helped with tactical and supply operations through the Korean and Vietnam wars. According to my dad, Grandpa held a lifelong empathy for working people and his politics reflected this. But he was also a law-and-order, career military man (I think he joined up before he was twenty years old). My dad told me they barely spoke to one another during the Vietnam war. Grandpa was staunchly ideologically in support of it. My dad, just fourteen years old then, committed himself to resisting the war after being educated by his local UMC pastor on the economics behind it, becoming critical of the way he understood his peers’ lives were being used for profit.
Continue reading Suicide: The End of Paranoia – a guest post by Aaron Scott
Image on flickr by martin_kelley
This week is suicide prevention week and so it’s got me thinking more about suicide. I wrote some of my story about the suicide of my step-dad a few weeks back called “Suicide and the Things We Carry”.
My wife Emily and I had moved to Los Angeles a few months before my step-dad died. And I didn’t talk to him more than a few times in the period leading up to his death, though I did speak with him a week or so before. If I had known anything about suicide at that point – I was 24 – I would have known to take seriously some of the remarks that he made. But I was a kid and I didn’t really know how to help anyone with these kinds of issues, let alone one of my parents. I don’t blame myself for what happened but I do wonder if I had taken the signs of his spiraling depression more seriously, could I have been brave enough to call help for him?
It’s really scary when you find yourself on the other end of a phone call, or standing in front of, someone who has lost all hope. You want to believe with all your heart that they’d never “do it.” You want to believe that they know somehow deep down inside that are loved, they are precious, they are wanted and needed. But this is not always the case and it can be a dangerous assumption to make. Do not assume that someone you love knows, or understands, that you love them or how deeply you love them. And don’t assume that your love is enough on its own to pull them back from the brink. Continue reading Suicide: When Nobody Is Waiting for you Tomorrow