Life Affirming Lessons From a Suicide

Category: Families & Generations, Weekly Columns

 

There are many relationships we have in life, naturally. We have family, friends, business associates, and what I like to call, Virtual friends. Virtual friends are those we know via Social Media but may have never really met. I have many of these relationships, some of which have bloomed into meaningful associations and actual real-life friendships. Recently, I learned that one of my Virtual friends had committed suicide. He was a very successful man, father of six, and one of those friends I’d never met or spoken with. On a larger scale, teen suicide is horribly epidemic and we parents MUST be conscious and aware of this tragic risk to our kids.

When I learned of his tragic death and the fact that he’d suffered from lifelong depression, I wondered if I might have made a difference had I made an effort to really know him? Depression is insidious and even those people who seem to have everything to live for can succumb to its tentacles of despair. This is evidently what happened to this man.

On further reflection, I realized my knowing him or not was irrelevant. The lessons from a suicide that I took away from his death were all the reasons to live that I believe and that I believe we need to be reminded of and share. Life has so much to offer, so many riches to enjoy, so many experiences to have, that the idea of ending it anytime before the journey ends on its own is unfathomable to me. Maybe share this short list with someone you know who may be living through the trials of depression or may just need a little reminder of the joys to be found in living.

1. Don’t Give Up

Yes, it’s a corny saying but don’t give up. The world is filled with amazing stories of comebacks; of people who were so down they never thought they’d see up again. Why can’t you be that person? How many people do you know that have come back from a setback, or numerous setbacks?

I just think of my parents whenever I feel sorry for myself, which, these days, is less and less. Maybe I’ve actually begun to grow up in my sixth decade of life? My parents suffered the loss of two children, numerous diseases, and numerous financial hardships. My mother, in particular, always had a kind word and smile for everyone she encountered. My dad never complained. What do I have to complain about in comparison?

2. Be Grateful

Try to wake up each day and say “Thank You” for something good in your life. Maybe it’s waking up without pain and you say “Thanks” for simply feeling good? Maybe it’s the simple act of going to the bathroom and your plumbing is working? Imagine if it weren’t?

There is so much that most of us have to be grateful for that we take for granted. This is especially true for those of us fortunate enough to live in the U.S. or other countries with such a comfortable way of life. What if you woke up each day in the squalor of a poor African country and just quenching your thirst was a daily challenge?

3. This Too Shall Pass

This great saying is often attributed to Solomon, from biblical times. We don’t know where it truly came from. Often, someone will offer “This too shall pass” as words of comfort to someone going through something difficult. It’s true that most things do ease with time, even the death of a loved one.

I like to think of this phrase during the good times, as well, because anyone who has lived any length of time knows that the good times can go away just as easily as the bad times may ease with time. This lesson is simply to appreciate the good times and know that the bad times will likely fade.

4. Give Back

The best way to appreciate life, to count your own blessings, is to help others. First, you will feel good. That is guaranteed. Second, you will potentially get a painful lesson in how lucky your life truly is.

Help an elderly person who is alone. Mentor a disabled child or adult. After all, disabled adults still need compassion yet we often direct our attentions and care to young disabled people. Volunteer at a hospital, health clinic, homeless shelter, and then come home and complain.

5. Get a Dog

We just recently lost one of our beloved dogs, Tache, at 15 years old. She had lived a full life and given us plenty of joy and companionship. I remember her and her boyfriend, Simon, most lovingly when I reflect on their devotion to me during a very rough passage in my life.

This occurred during the early months following the end of my first marriage. My soon-to-be ex-wife had left our home and our boys. I became a 24/7 single dad almost literally overnight. The boys were six and nine, and scared. They didn’t understand what was going on and, frankly, at times neither did I.

Many nights, after their bedtime, I would lie in bed brooding, thinking, and worrying. Most of those nights, the boys would sleepily come into my room and crawl into my bed, followed by Tache and Simon. I was always in the middle, crushed between my boys and 150 pounds of dogs. Those nights, those furry mouthfuls, kept me sane.

Of course, there’s a slight tongue-in-cheek attitude with number five, but having a pet during difficult times is quite comforting. Mainly, I hope to encourage everyone to stop and smell the roses, realize that hope springs eternal, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, there’s no time like the present, and to wish upon a star. It will be all right…

UPDATE: Since writing this post there were three tragic deaths in our community, two by their own hands. One of these young men was a friend of my oldest son. He took his parent’s new car and drove off a cliff, leaving behind a big middle finger for his parents and a lot of heartbreak. There may be no more cruel and selfish an act that a person can inflict on their friends and family. However, WE must be aware and on the look-out when there are CLEAR signs of turmoil. This young man exhibited every sign imaginable yet still was able to kill himself – before his 18th birthday.

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  • http://stanfaryna.wordpress.com Stan Faryna

    It’s a beautiful gift – this post. May it reach someone in their dark night at just the right moment.

    Thank you, Bruce.

    Recently on my blog:  Who knew that Seth Godin was a prophet of doom! http://wp.me/pbg0R-qs

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Thx much, Stan. My biggest goal is to touch people and maybe help those in need a little bit…

  • http://twitter.com/JohnFeskorn John Feskorn

    Hi Bruce ~ When the news of his death hit last month, so many were shocked that this man, who was such an inspiration to others, could end his own life. I read so many posts from folks who regretted not reaching out to him; One was most poignant: from Stephen Caggiano…”If only I had reached out AND reached in…”  

    Being the spouse of someone who has struggled with depression and bipolar disease, I felt the need to reach out to Stephen and a few others who felt consumed by the notion that they did not do enough to help this man.  In the early years of the onset of my wife’s disease, she would lay in bed, cry and talk about not wanting to go on, I would hold her and help her through these depressions.  
    At times, it was very difficult to understand because everything in her life was going so well.  Through years of experimenting with differing medications and therapy, my wife has now found balance and peace within herself, but those early years of discovery were really quite a challenge.

    My point to sharing this is to help people to understand and look for the signs of clinical depression or bipolar disorder. If the chemicals in our mind are not balanced properly, there are no words or hugs that will suddenly whack them into place…seek professional help.  

    I enjoyed the timing, content and sensitivity of your post, thank you.

    All my best, John

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      TY, John. I so appreciate others, like you, who are willing to share and open up on this touchy topic.

      • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

        THIS is what Social Media is ALL about! Sharing, Helping, Reaching Out! TY @twitter-15439995:disqus TY @twitter-45938040:disqus

      • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

        THIS is what Social Media is ALL about! Sharing, Helping, Reaching Out! TY @twitter-15439995:disqus [email protected]:disqus

    • http://twitter.com/janetcallaway Janet Callaway

      John, aloha. Thank you so much for sharing your story which touched me deeply.

      Your points are well taken and no doubt will make many feel better who thought they “should have done more” whether in this case or in another.

      So glad that your wife is doing well now.  Aloha.  Janet

      • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

        THIS is what SM is all about. Sharing, helping, reaching out! TY @twitter-45938040:disqus  TY @twitter-15439995:disqus

      • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

        This is what Social Media is ALL about! Helping, Sharing, Reaching Out! TY @twitter-15439995:disqus TY @twitter-45938040:disqus

      • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

        THIS is what Social Media is ALL about! Sharing, Helping, Reaching Out! TY @twitter-45938040:disqus  TY @twitter-15439995:disqus

  • http://www.8bitdad.com Zach Rosenberg

    Great post – the standout to me is that both the good and bad pass. People tend to live on the extremes of the pendulum – and never in the middle. When things are good, they’re GREAT and when things are bad, they’re TERRIBLE. We should celebrate the good, learn from the bad, but live in the middle – where we’re able to gain perspective from both. I think gaining that perspective of all things “passing” helps make all the other points possible.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      I so agree about the extremes, Zach!

  • Jetts31

    Very good Bruce, especially about getting a dog! I’ve been through my fair share of hardships and I have taken cues from my Grandmother who lived through the Depression. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get moving again.
    I’m sorry to hear about your friend.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      THEY (our grandparents) really had it tough! My biggest fear, now, is that our kids will face similar hardships! Thx, Jimmy – cu at #DadChat on Thursday!

  • Renee

    Suicide is defined as a permanent solution to a temporary problem. You missed one, however. Don’t be afraid to change. Depression is an insidious monster, and one of the things it convinces us is that we can’t succeed if we stretch our wings. So it’s better to be miserable with the status quo than try and make the change we need to be happy and risk losing everything.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      I’m sure I missed plenty, Renee…thx for the addition.

  • David W.

    This is a thought-provoking list.

    Although if a dog climbed into my bed, I I surely would become horribly depressed, if not suicidal.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      You haven’t met my dogs, David!

  • http://pegfitzpatrick.com/ Peg Fitzpatrick

    Beautiful post Bruce. You are a very sensitive and thoughtful person.

    Peggy

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Thx, Peggy. I wish this wasn’t necessary for people to remember, but it is sadly so for many.

  • wichitarick1

      Excellent words! All of them so far. thank you.
        I left any thing I can say off of f.b. for the very reasons you have stated. It is a very touchy subject for many people.
      My personal thoughts on suicide usually ruffle a few feathers and I have rarely tried to say it in text,although I have spent many hrs. in therapy and open meetings and just bars and river banks discussing it.
      My most recent examples have been my daughters grandpa ,my former F.I.L. took his own life last yr. and locally a teenager not much older than my daughter took her life and it made the papers because it was supposedly brought on by bullying .
       It is a lot to digest for a teen ,through out her grandpas hospitalization before he passed I tried to very upfront about the whole matter . I just knew her memories of him should be good ones & trying to resolve HIS problems after his passing  should never fall on the survivors.
       I have seen to many people become the person they are grieving over.
           That is mouthful and just as is stated here about this being a touchy subject or something that is not openly discussed for the family’s or survivors is a large part of the problem .
        A lot of what I learned about p.t.s.d. & shock is applicable in this situation because for many survivors all that is needed is to get over that first hump or hurdle to move on and resume life again.
         I usually apologize at this point for my rambling,but I think I made myself clear on at least a few pts.  Thanks very much. Rick DAD.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Talking about it IS the first and most important step. I’m glad you shared. BE sure your daughter knows she can talk to you, Rick (which I’m sure you’ve done)!

  • http://twitter.com/janetcallaway Janet Callaway

    Bruce, aloha. What a magnificent post on such a very difficult subject.  You handled it with sensitivity, grace and direction. If people read your post and the comment thread, they will see what they can do in their own lives and perhaps to help others.

    Bruce, I have a gratitude journal and each night before I go to bed I write down several things for which I am grateful.  A range of items would be a delightful lunch, a success related to business, a wonderful personal experience or a beautiful flower.  What I do is write a sentence or two about each and think about it, appreciate it as I write it.

    Though I am so sorry for what caused you to write, perhaps because of this, others will live.  Take good care, my friend.  Until next time, aloha.  Janet

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Being grateful is the KEY to happiness. Good for you, JC! @twitter-45938040:disqus

  • http://www.azmomofmanyhats.blogspot.com Azmomofmanyhats

    Great post Bruce. We all tend to forget the “good” in life for moments here and there, but for someone who suffers from depression the good times are hard to embrace tight enough to pull back into the light.  You gave some great words to encourage.  I think it is also important for us to just be there to listen if that is what is needed. We need to cherish and shore up our friendships and relationships.  We need to be a listening ear, but also willing to comfort or suggest professional help if that is what is needed.

    Depression is a very difficult thing to move on from for many people.  We should all understand what the symptoms are so that in our close relationships and in ourselves, we can see the signs and act in response to them.

    As always… fantastic post.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      And, as always, a fantastic comment @a18c072d88fe5c20214a341e509723a8:disqus – #YouMatter to me! #DadChat is tomorrow!

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      And, as always, a fantastic comment  @azmomofmanyhats:twitter – #YouMatter to me! #DadChat is tomorrow!

  • Anonymous

    Well said, Bruce. I love the tips for dealing with depression, especially that you mention animals. Having a companion who loves you and can understand you without words is invaluable. Thank you for your loving post.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      So glad you appreciated this post. Sometimes we need reminders, right Britt?

  • http://coolcatteacher.blogspot.com coolcatteacher

    It is so hard to understand depression unless you’ve experienced it. Although I haven’t had the full throes of the “big one” there have been a few times in my life that I have been there. Depression isn’t rational. Depression isn’t something you can talk yourself out of. You know you shouldn’t feel this way but you do. When people give you reasons you shouldn’t feel depressed you feel worse because you know you don’t have any real reasons to be depressed. It is often an imbalance. That is why us women often get this after we have children. It is very real and it is very scary. I just think that it is hard to understand and that the best thing we can tell someone going through depression is to GET HELP. Seek help. It is OK. There are some things you can’t talk yourself or rationalize yourself out of. I knew someone who went through a depression but didn’t have any sympathy at all. When I went through  it myself it was a horrific wake up call that sometimes all the birds can sing and the sky can be blue and the sun is yellow but that you just don’t feel right and don’t know why. Just encourage people who need it to get help, please. It really should have been one of your points.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Yes, gently encouraging people to get help is our duty…Thank you, Vicki!

  • http://twitter.com/kdhoffman2 Kathleen D. Hoffman

    A friend’s brother died this way and she is left questioning if she did enough, she feels responsible.  I tell her she did everything she could. Thank you for writing this and bringing up ideas. I will try to blog about suicide soon on http://www.healthychange4you.blogspot.com.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      That is often the worst part – leaving behind loved ones with so many questions and doubts!

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