Over the past few months I have met with three groups of people who have recently lost a loved one to suicide.
Needless to say these folks are devastated and are all experiencing a plethora of emotions ranging from guilt to grief and anger to anxiety.
A quick search of the Internet reveals that approximately 3,500 people – some ten people each day – choose this means of ending their lives each year in Canada.
I cannot even begin to imagine the feelings of pain, anguish, despair, loneliness, helplessness, guilt, shame, anger, frustration, sorrow and desperation that must be present in those final moments before permanent stillness begins but, sadly, I have witnessed how all of those emotions are transferred to those left behind.
A friend of mine in the counselling industry tells me Alberta’s declining economy has led to a significant increase in the suicide rate and it is feared that the longer the present recession continues, the higher the count will rise.
I don’t pretend to be an expert on these matters. I am not a psychologist, counsellor or therapist and, like most of us, it is rare for people to seek my guidance in dealing with matters of depression in their lives.
But if there is one thing I do know it is this: there is one word that more than others defines the quality of our lives. This word shapes the prism through which we view our world, defines the quality of how our world sounds and plays the leading role in determining how we feel about our world and our present situation.
The word is perspective.
Perspective is what we use to give meaning to data.
It is how we choose adjectives to define our experiences.
It is the meaning we place on the events in our lives.
It is all we have available to us to use in separating good things from bad.
And it is what we use to determine the water level in the glass.
Half full or half empty is nothing more than perspective.
Without it we would be robotic and, sadly, it may well be the tool that drives us to conclude that the only effective pain relief available to us is to take our own lives.
The events in the lives of those sad souls connected to the three groups of folks I have recently met with cannot possibly be the cause for their decisions to bring their lives to an end.
I don’t know the circumstances in any of their lives but regardless of what they were – disease, financial woes, relationship challenges, horrendous illness, relentless depression, oppressive guilt or an amalgam of some or all of these; what I do know is that the weight of all of these is not the cause of that decision for if that were the case then everyone suffering from any or all of these horrible maladies would choose the same exit strategy.
And we know they don’t.
These poor folks lost their perspective. Somehow they lost sight of the fact that their misery was in no way caused by the events or circumstances to which they attributed it but instead was caused by the meaning they sadly placed on those events and circumstances.
And by the conclusions these meanings led them to.
History is filled with stories of people who have come back from unimaginable adversity and of those who have succumbed to the burden of small setbacks.
In all cases it has never been the adversity or the setbacks that have been responsible for the way in which these folks have responded, but rather their viewpoint or perspective of these events – the meaning they have placed on these events and their own resiliency – that has, in each case, led to the outcome.
My heart goes out to all of these folks who are battling with grief. While there are no words of encouragement that can possibly help them in speeding up their recovery I can only hope that each of them understands the absolute, irrefutable, immutable fact that any and all responsibility for the death of their loved ones rests firmly and solely with those three people who, by themselves made the decision to end their lives and then took action to do so.
Regardless of their own rationale behind their decisions to do so, the decisions were their own. While we may never understand them we need to accept them, grieve for them, mourn their loss but never assume guilt for their actions.
Perspective is the only tool available to all of these people to draw upon as they attempt to make sense of the incomprehensible and then to move forward with the lives at a time when doing so seems impossible.
To those who are grieving these three horrific events, I want you to know that I, along with all the many others who love and care for you, will always be available as a friend to listen and to be there when needed.
Most importantly I will be there to remind you that the gentlest way to lift the heaviness out of your heart is by changing the angle of your gaze.
It’s all we have.
Use it wisely
Till we read again.
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Your opinion truly means a lot to me.