When people who are suicidal are asked what is preventing them from making an attempt, they often say, “I don’t want to hurt my family and friends.”
This is not the case for everybody. When people are consumed with suicidal pain, they often develop “tunnel vision,” which limits their focus to one thing: ending their unbearable pain by dying. This narrowing of their field of vision causes them to lose touch with how their death might impact other people.
Therefore, if you are thinking about taking your own life, I want to remind you that your action would not happen in a vacuum. The poet John Donne has famously said, “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” We are all interconnected.
Think of the suicidal act as a stone that is dropped at the center of a still pool; when the stone hits the water, circles radiate in all directions. In a similar fashion, each suicide creates ripples that affects many others. For example, recently a good friend’s boyfriend took his own life. Although he had lived only twenty-five years, over one hundred grieving people attended his funeral.
Therefore, if you choose to take your life, your actions will impact many people. My intent in asking you to consider this is not to make you feel guilty. You are not selfish nor a bad person for thinking of ending your life. As I know only too well, suicidal pain is overwhelming. But I do want to share the whole breadth of the impact that the decision to end your life would likely have.
Over thre years, I have heard stories from people who have lost their fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, aunts, and uncles to suicide. These losses create wounds that never heal. In one instance, a good friend lost his brother to suicide when he was sixteen. This friend is now forty-five years old. Every November, when the anniversary comes up, he slips back into a depression. In summing up his loss he said, “Remember, suicide doesn’t end pain; it just transfers it to someone else.”
An example of the long-term impact of suicide was relayed by Anderson Cooper, the well-known journalist for CNN. While hosting a Town Hall special on suicide, he shared: “This July will be the thirty-year anniversary of my brother’s suicide, and not a day has gone by when I didn’t wonder, ‘Why did this happen? What was he thinking.’”
Even if you don’t have people in your life that you are close to, I’d like you to consider a couple of reasons for staying alive. The first is that if you are able to survive and heal, you’ll have opportunities to connect with people that you may not even know yet. For example, when I was considering taking my life at the age of forty-seven, I hardly knew my godson and goddaughter. But because I lived, I was given the opportunity to mentor them and become involved in their lives. Twenty years later we are still connected.
Secondly, as you find your way to a better life, you may learn valuable lessons from your healing journey that you can share with other people that will impact their lives. After I emerged from my depressive episode, I was able to communicate my recovery strategies through my websites, YouTube channel, as well as in my educational peer support groups.
The philosopher Nietzche once said, “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.” In addition, one can say, “What doesn’t kill us makes us wiser.” It is this wisdom that you will be able to pass on to other people.
To sum up, if you were to end your life now, your absence will leave a void that nobody else can fill. The future will miss out on the good you might have accomplished and the positive impact that you might have made. While your life is wholly yours, it is integrally linked to other people who have invested in you and love you or will invest in and love you in the future. Thus, if you can find a way to survive this crisis (which I believe you can), you will benefit not just yourself but other people as well.