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Many of us judge those who attempt suicide as selfish, or uncaring for others. It is important to not be judgmental of a person already in grief.
They are sorry because they know how difficult it will be for you to deal with the grief.
They have put themselves in the shoes of someone who survives death (by self-harm) of a loved one. They have visualised you in the situation, replayed your reactions in their heads multiple times and imagined how long it will take for you to heal.
Those are the exact thoughts that stopped them from taking that step on multiple occasions. They had pulled back so many times, but were continuing to circle the drain. Then the spinning had to stop. They went ahead with their plans because they believe the pain you would go through now would be much less than if you had to bear with them alive. It does not mean they are not sorry.
They are sorry for all the time and effort you put in trying to help.
The day you came over with a brownie for their 34th birthday. The day you picked them up to go to the doctor because they just could not do it on their own. The day when you cared enough to reply to their distraught messages with the words ‘hang in there’ even from a family gathering. The afternoons you spent watching them sob. The moments you spent in your own head thinking about what you could do to help. The moments you prayed for them.
They are sorry because they wasted those hugs you gave them hoping they would comfort.
Trust me they hugged back tighter hoping for the same.
They are sorry they didn’t do it earlier.
The more they ‘hang in there’ the more they give the illusion of getting better. They are sorry they gave you hope.
They are sorry they built a bond with more people they met recently.
After all if they hadn’t waited, their going away wouldn’t have meant much to these new people.
You wanted so much for them to survive. You wanted your prayers to be answered and to see them happy one day. They know it would have been an inspiring story of triumph. They are sorry they couldn’t complete that story.
Please believe me when I say in those final moments there are just 2 things on their mind: One, they wish they could thank you enough for being there and two, they are sorry and are hoping you will forgive them.
And these couldn’t be truer if they survive the attempt.
If you or anyone you know is feeling suicidal, here are some of the helplines available in India. Please call.
Aasra, Mumbai: 022 27546669
Sneha, Chennai: 044 2464 0050
Lifeline, Kolkata: 33 2474 4704
Pic credit: Anais (Used under a CC license)
The power of stories to inspire change made me turn into a storyteller. I write
Thank you for writing this article with such courage and heart.
Given the recent loss to our world of Robin Williams, this article is particularly timely.
It is indeed tremendously important not to judge someone who is feeling suicidal or acting on those thoughts. Judgements reveal our lack of understanding; they tell of the limitations of our insight and empathy.
The person who is feeling suicidal already has a harsh voice inside them that judges them for their suffering, that is telling them they should be stronger, should be doing better etc etc. They are already in deep despair. Judgements from those around them only magnifies their pain. Hearing words like “selfish” only serves to amplify their feelings of worthlessness.
As a psychotherapist and healer, I sit each day with beautiful people struggling with suicidal thoughts. They carry a heavy burden of the most difficult feelings – self-hatred, shame, guilt and relentless anxiety and fear.
Often, these feelings originate in very early experiences of violence, abuse or chaos within the family – experiences too intense for a young mind to process.
To cope with these experiences, they have had to shut down key parts of themselves; psychic barricades have had to be built to survive.
Hence the paradox that they can know they are deeply loved – but they may not feel love-worthy. They may fully know how blessed they are, but the weight of despair and hopelessness may be crushing all the joy.
The medicine that is most required is kindness.
The person who is feeling suicidal needs to cultivate self-compassion for the self that is struggling and finds each day immensely difficult.
And friends and family need to keep drawing from the well of kindness, both for the person who is struggling and also for themselves – because there is tremendous heartbreak and helplessness in trying to support someone who is suicidal or self-harming. It can be exhausting; it can feel that our best efforts are inadequate.
Kindness is a gentle and wise mother who eases the burden of suffering. It keeps reminding us that everyone is doing the best they know how. It allows us to set down harsh expectations and reach instead for patience and gentleness. It allows us to slow down in our frantic search for solutions and take it one moment at a time, one day at a time.
Such kindness is the ground of true hope.
Thank you so much for understanding Sharadha. So grateful for people like yourself who help us deal with the self-hatred, shame, guilt, anxiety and fear. Thank you also for helping our loved ones with understanding to survive difficult times.
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