Shortly after graduating high school, after packing and taking the long trek to my new college town – I received a call about my Uncle committing suicide. I remember a feeling like the world didn’t rotate for a second. I wondered how long I had been living my life, how many hopeful hours I spent alive after he died. Walking on campus in what was to be my new home for the next few years was surreal. It was the first time in my memory where I understood the heavy nature of what had occurred. It felt so odd being called, hearing that message and then being set out to wade through a sea of humanity. Strangers all oblivious to the grief I was feeling. For him, for my younger cousins and my aunt.
I remember he spoke sweetly to me. Lifted me up once to kiss me on the cheek before bidding me adieu. I remember a tall man with a warm grin, heading out the door and on to new adventures. I would love to speak with him again.
From that phone call to the end of his funeral service, it was the first time I wondered how to address suicide and the suicidal. With what I’ve learned since his passing I pray that the words I used to comfort our family weren’t some cliché. Wasn’t something that sounded like a hollow line already spouted out by the last three relatives they were hugged by.
I can understand why people use clichés. People parrot phrases coined from the time of Shakespeare when heavy subjects come on because sometimes there are too emotions to process. Too many words and not enough time.
Wait. Not enough time? To ask ‘how are you?’ ‘No, really, are you doing alright?’ ‘If you ever need to just vent about life, I don’t mind listening.’ That last one may take some time out of one’s afternoon, yet those hours can save years. Years that a person can add to their lifespan, time working to find hope again and goals to be truly proud of. Lending your ear to someone who is either suicidal or even just deeply distraught means you are lending your heart.
Life is full of complex issues and clichés are an understandable start. Understandable ONLY if your sentiment is followed up with active listening. Focus on the positives, but don’t be demeaning. Let them guide the conversation at their own pace and be patient. Sympathy is nice, but empathy is the emotional process that can yield real solutions. Always question “if this was me, what change would I want to see? How do we make this happen?”
If you need your voice to be heard, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our team. Other very helpful resources are listed below. No matter what pace your world is turning – our mission to save lives will never change. We are rooting for you and your children’s lives because they matter. ALWAYS.