Letter to a Suicide Survivor

Note: An acquaintance tried to commit suicide last week. It wasn’t the first time. This time, it resulted in Dave [not the real name] dumping all the pills so he wouldn’t be tempted again. And then Dave had a moment of regret. He wrote me, and this was my answer.

Calla lilly © QuinnCreative

Your story and regret is not surprising. None of it.
You have regret because you closed the secret escape door, forcing you to find new solutions to problems, living with them instead of taking the unsolved way out.

Difficult because it forces you to change—-not one big, dramatic sweep—-that was yesterday–the drama, the thrill, the heroism.

Today is the day of putting it together, of figuring out the “how”—-that’s a lot harder. That demands traction of your action.  Courage is often rash—we jump to follow a gut feeling of bravery before we realize the long-term results. Then we rationalize our way out of it. It’s much harder to live with that moment of bravery. Most often, there is no medal or party to celebrate, just confused friends and relatives who want us to be “normal.” And the relief that we did not leave children, relatives, friends behind to try to untangle the confusion of “why did Dave choose this?”

This is the way of a troubled life. First, you re-live with excitement the rush of terror, of danger, of suffering. That was clean, bright pain with the rush of adrenaline, it was a torture we can point to in horror. And then there was the dull aftermath, the stuff we drag along, day to day. Not so much bright, more dull, and we build our stories around that, making the clean pain into dirty pain. This is the stuff we use to make our stories—-the stories we tell ourselves to make it OK not to change. It’s an excuse to behave the way we always

This calla lilly is a surprise--I was told they could not survive in a pot through out hot summer.

have. Change is hard, it’s complicated. Change requires re-thinking the ways “we’ve always done it.”  The dull day-to-day stuff of gauging others needs and choosing others instead of yourself is hard for you. It is hard for everyone. Something you never learned when your world was about survival, not growth.

Dumping the pills puts you in charge, but with different choices.  You are dealing with what shows up, demanding new choices from yourself. You are freely giving up control of ending your life to make others wrong–because that is what suicide is–“see, you made me do this,” and throwing your lot in with those who live in the moment, who don’t know when death will come. That is a new way to live—-with uncertainty, with certain death but uncertain time, making every moment count so that when we are struck down, we don’t have regret, and we have memories, will to continue, and resources when much, maybe all we knew before,  is taken away. How wonderful that you built this chance, this choice to do it in a new and healthy way. And how scary for you. It will not be easy to re-think the choice of suicide and choose a harder one–living with problems, not being able to fix them all. It’s a struggle, this life. Choosing life is often harder than choosing death. But choosing death makes others responsible, raises questions that can’t be answered. Thanks from your friends and kids for not leaving us to wonder. And wander without you. You did a hard thing; I hope the next week you’ll see it was also worthwhile.

–Quinn McDonald is a life- and creativity coach.