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From Pain To Power: Suicide, Part One; The Big "Why?"

Just last week, I heard of another friend who committed suicide.

I can think, offhand, of about five people, not including him, whom I've been somewhat close to, who've made that choice in my lifetime of 55 years. Sad to say, but my immediate thought when writing this was, "That ain't bad, considering the state of the world and the challenges of living!"

Corey (name changed) was special to me in that I had been a part of a healing ceremony with him where, essentially, he was baptized by fire. I believe I witnessed his physical transformation from a man hounded by personal demons into a man willing to face life squarely. It was a phenomenal experience that happened in an instant. You'd expect someone like Robert DeNiro to pull an instantaneous, visible, change like that off, but the actor would be doing it so we could see it, whereas what we witnessed in Corey was the choice to be it.

Transformations like that happen all the time. We say to ourselves, "Well, in Corey's case, it didn't hold very well, did it?" But who are we, who keep on going, to say?

What I haven't mentioned is that I've been an integral part of one or another stage of two hundred or more suicides. I was in emergency services as an ambulance paramedic for twelve years, and I doubt there's a phase I've missed in whatever process there may be. In those and subsequent years, I've counseled many on the brink. Of those whom I've counseled, I don't know that any have followed through on the act. Usually, the encounters were flashes of despair that dissipated over time (more on this, later).

But the first thing I say to someone whom I counsel is "Yes, suicide is an option." I come from the point of view that it happens enough, it is such an integral part of the experience of being human, that it could not be otherwise than an option. No matter how much you may try to regulate it, you cannot stop it. You cannot even stem its tide by promising eternal damnation. It's something we do, and some of us more happily than others.

Yes, I said more happily. In conversation, I'm sure you've heard of the term "shit-eating grin." In the ambulance trade it refers to a look of complete relief and contentment on the face of a dead body. I have encountered these kinds of facial expressions most often in suicides. With most everyone else, if there is any clearly definable expression at all it's in the vein of "What the Hell? Get me outta here!" The grins of these suicides, however, speak, "I've made it!"

Generalization is a trap, of course, and by no means am I saying that suicides are a happy thing. The point I wish to make is that suicide can be as much a vehicle of personal empowerment as it appears to be evidence of resounding defeat.

To live is to get scarred. No one gets out alive -- in the form we have right now, anyhow. The only difference for any of us is when. There is not a one of us who isn't doing something to hasten our own deaths, if nothing else than clinging to a belief in it. What we do with our lives is a function of choice, which is so sacred even God doesn't mess with it. Free will has no limitations, which means even causing our own deaths (which happens all the time) is a gift offered by life.

What our impressions of life are - what our interpretations of our circumstances are - is what our lives become. If we interpret our lives as intolerable, with the only outlet remaining to be death at our own hands, then that is exactly what it will be. To the person who commits suicide, it is a by-product of their considered, not casual interpretation of their circumstances. By no means am I advocating suicide. I am just suggesting that those who are left behind make room to see the world through the eyes of the person who has cashed in his or her chips. If you begin from the place that, for the individual, her world-view was valid, under the circumstances you may be able to grasp that taking her own life was appropriate. It's funny how we use phrases like, "those who are left behind," or, "we, who carry on," or, "the ones remaining" to describe who is left after the dying go - and these not being specific to suicides. The implication, as Buddha says, is that "life is suffering." We all know and experience this. Perhaps the wonder is not that so many people commit suicide, but that so many more of us don't. Next, walking in the others' shoes.

Russ Reina shares his experience in the healing arts (beginning 1968) through It is a potent resource to help you deepen your abilities in connection. Its sacred space includes high-quality art, articles, books (Moments in the Death of a Flesh Mechanic...a healer's rebirth), counseling, workshops and music.

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Mimi Rothschild

Mimi Rothschild is the Founder and CEO of the Global Grief Institute which provides Certification training programs forGrief Coach, Trauma Coach, End of Life Coach, and Children's Grief Coach. She is a survivor who has buried 3 of her children and her husband of 33 years. She is available for speaking engagements and comments to the press on any issue surrounding thriving after catastrophic loss. MEDIA INQUIRIES:

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