By Elsa Colopy
I saw you today.
Your head was bowed, your shoulders slumped, your eyes to the ground. Your backpack looked like it weighted a thousand pounds.
You crossed in front of my car at a stoplight – your shuffling steps made me wonder.
Is your heart broken?
Who hurt you?
Why are you so sad?
The light turned green and I drove away. But I haven’t forgotten you. I wonder if you are still sad. I wonder what has gone through your head. I wonder, have you thought of ending it all?
It’s entered my world recently in different ways. An old friend, a distant family member, a local high school student. a loved one who considered it just recently.
Oh God, please don’t.
Please don’t go. Please don’t say goodbye.
I watched a show that’s been popular among teens – just to try to understand. Thirteen Reasons Why. In it a high school girl takes her own life and then leaves behind cassette tapes implicating her friends for her death. I might have loved that show as a teen. I may have thought there was something poetic about it. After all, she gets back at all those who have hurt her by laying the guilt at their doorstep. Not only is she free from pain, she has exacted revenge on those responsible.
But she’s still gone.
Never to experience her real first love, the joy of climbing a mountain, the exhilaration in conquering a fear and beating her depression. Never to hold a child, a grandchild, a great grandchild. Never to swim in the ocean, taste homemade ice cream, laugh till her belly hurts… ever again.
There is nothing poetic about suicide. It robs life. It’s based on lies. It takes light and hope from the world and from far too many lives.
But the feelings are real, aren’t they? The depression so deep it can feel impossible to ever surface from it. The lies run rampant, choking hope from the best fighters, the most valiant ones. And they let go, thinking that’s the best and only option.
But it’s just not true.
Let’s look at it.
Lie number one: They will be better off without me.
No. They won’t. They would much rather have a broken you, then no you at all. Your kids, your family, your friends. You are not a burden, a mistake, a weight. You are hurting, yes. Maybe you’ve been hurting for a long time – but they still need you. They need your presence. Your touch. Your light. They need to see you fight so they will fight. They need you to do whatever it takes to find help, fight for hope, believe in a future. The best scenario is you paving the way to healing so they can do the same.
But she left me.
But he left me.
Yes, maybe the important someones have walked out of your life. That does not mean everyone will. Maybe the people who were supposed to stand with you and believe in you failed in every way. That does not mean you shouldn’t stand, walk and believe for yourself. You were created. You have a purpose The greatest tragedy would be if you ended your life before you got to see the good you have to give – the good you were designed for, the good you’ll receive in return. No one is ever better off without you. They are only better off with you fighting, never giving up, believing there is hope. Please, please don’t give up.
Be that one. Be the one who fights. Don’t give up. Don’t say goodbye.
Lie number two: As in Thirteen Reasons, I will make them suffer for not being kind to me.
Ill show them. They’ll be sorry they didn’t _______________fill in the blank (love me, see me, accept me). Or They’ll be sorry they ________________ fill in the blank (were cruel, didn’t accept me, bullied me).
They may. They may be sorry, and they may not. You will never know. There’s no poetic justice in taking your own life to get back at those who have let you down. If they have let you down in life, they will let you down in death. Their expected reactions will be different than you hope for, their responses not poetic at all. Just real. Broken. Human. Unique to who they are. Some tender, some uncaring, some sorrowful, some not. But you will never know.
It’s a lie. A big fat lie that taking your life is somehow the perfect revenge. The perfect revenge is actually living your life, fighting for hope, becoming that person who leaves depression in the dust to find purpose, strength, love and beauty. And that is both possible and doable. There are scores who have done it – who were once suicidal and now full of life. Who once knew heartache, and now stand strong. It is possible, and it is possible for you.
Lie number three: I just can’t do it anymore.
Getting up. Taking another breath. Facing another bill, another angry word, another broken relationship, another painful memory. It’s just too hard and you want to give up.
My mother lost hope. When I was young, she lost hope as PTSD took over her world. She had been imprisoned in a concentration camp as a child. She experienced torture, abuse, starvation. When the memories, nightmares, flashbacks started invading her every sleeping and waking moment, she wanted to end it all. She wanted to quit. Be done. It was all too much.
She didn’t do it. But the ache didn’t just go away. She sought counseling, sought God, worked to forgive. She had dark days and darker nights. She let people in when she wanted to shut them out. She believed God would help her when nothing seemed to point to that truth. And ultimately, through time, love, prayer, hope, she was healed.
And generations are different as a result.
We have no idea how much suicide will ripple through and impact lives around us. Even more so, how much staying, fighting, living, healing – will influence generations with hope and life. Yes, it’s the hardest thing you will ever do. But it’s so worth it. If my mom had chosen suicide, how different my world would have been. Ask every broken heart who has lost a loved one to suicide. What they would give to have that life back – that smile, even in pain. Those eyes, even with tears. That voice, even in heartache. Choosing death ends hope. In choosing life, in fighting the good fight, you can radically change generations for the good.
Lie number four: There’s no way out.
There’s no way I can beat this addiction, this pain, this loneliness, this feeling. It’s just too much. I’ve tried everything and nothing works.
No, not religion.
Don’t tune me out. It’s not a pat answer. It’s not a religious fix that simply sounds good. It is a HE who loves YOU.
Think of the kindest person you’ve ever met. Do it. Think of him. Think of her. The eyes, the smile, the tenderness. Multiply that by a million and you have Jesus.
Think of the strongest person you’ve ever known or heard about. Got him? See her in your mind? The tenacity, the endurance, the passion and courage. The fight-for-it kind of attitude. That’s Jesus, times a million. Only he focuses all that strength into fighting for you. YOU. He’ll do it. He wants to. It’s who he is.
Yeah, but a lot of Christians are jerks, we think. They’re part of the problem! I get it. Some of us are not very smart. We get it wrong. Holding up signs of everything we’re against and forgetting that God is FOR people. He loves. He saves. He corrects in loving truth. He fights. He will never abandon… HE WILL HEAL.
Jesus literally went through it all – rejection, loss, grief, pain. He lost it all. People who loved him left him. People who hated him wanted him dead. Not just dead. Dead by the cruelest of means. He never did anything wrong and yet he lost it all. He gets pain more than any other human. The tears he cried before his death were so intense, blood mingled with them. He gave his life – not for the perfect human who gets it right. For you. For me. To give us a way to hope. He took it all on his shoulders so we wouldn’t have to. And he fixes things. He doesn’t fix things by looking at you and saying “Buck up – pull it together!” He doesn’t shame you. He takes it. He does it. The only thing we have to do is be with him. Sit with him. What does that look like? Be still. Ask him to help you have faith. Choose to believe. Let him love you. Ask him to show you his love. Then look and see. Take that sunset personally, that song, the flower to heart. That’s his voice, his light in the darkness. He will change you. He will bring hope. He will take the depression and replace it with life. Not overnight – because he is doing something in the healing. He will use people, strong, safe people who will walk with you. They are out there. Ask him to help you find them and then seek them out. He will use resources – books, groups, studies, to educate you on addiction, abuse, depression. He can use medication to help mediate chemical issues in your brain. He can and will help because He loves you. I know this because I’ve seen it. Over and over again. in my own life. in other lives. He is real and He changes it all.
Maybe you don’t know what to pray, how to pray, what step to take next. I don’t know if I can, but I so want to help. Will you share your story with me? Trust me with your pain? I can’t fix it. I can’t offer advice, but I can help you pray. Tell me what you’ve been going through and I will do my very best to pen a prayer for you to pray. Would you let me do that for you? I don’t want you to leave this world. I don’t want you to say goodbye. I don’t want you to go.
Chester Bennington, from Linkin Park, sang a song called “One More Light” in honor of a friend he lost.
Not too long after that, Chester took his own life. What a heartbreak!
The lyrics still haunt me.
If they say
who cares if one more light goes out?
In a sky of a million stars
It flicker, flickers
Who cares when someone’s time runs out?
If a moment is all we are
We’re quicker, quicker
Who cares if one more light goes out?
Well I do….
Well friends, I do.
I care if your light goes out.
Your life matters.
Please don’t say goodbye.
And so if this blog post didn’t convince you, will you write to me and let me send a prayer back? Then please just promise me you’ll pray that prayer every day. It’s not magic, not at all. It’s just words. But I’m hoping they will be words that will connect you to the one who made you and loves you beyond all words.
If I can do this one small thing for you, I’d be so honored. Please send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, if I haven’t convinced you that suicide is not the answer to your problems, please reach out for help. Contact a pastor or counselor right away. You can also call the Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. Someone there will always answer the phone and be ready to listen.
This blog is dedicated to the families of Aaron, Lisa, Richard, Alex… I think of you so often. And this is for those who are still fighting. You know who you are….