Today is my wonderful daughter’s 16th birthday. I am so blessed! Today it is one year to the day since her friend Laura killed herself. This is a message I wrote some months ago, but decided to wait to post until today, to acknowledge this anniversary, an event my daughter will remember every year, on her birthday. This is no easier and the answers are no clearer today than they were the day I wrote this. That said, the questions, the answers, are important! Jami and Laura are important!
I sit here, on my porch listening to the rain. I wonder. What is the gap that makes it possible for two beautiful, talented, young women, with family and friends who loved them dearly, to choose to take their own lives. What in their despair and pain makes it impossible for them to see past the hard moments that faced them, to see all the potential ahead, and to choose in that moment to end their lives?
What resources are we not building in ourselves, in one another, that we don’t realize the rain will stop; the light will shine through the clouds; we will be loved, nurtured, supported through the pain, through the bad times?
Laura, victim of violence, could not cope, could not see beyond, and a 15 year old life with so much potential was ended.
Jami, victim of someone else’s mental illness, of someone else’s short sighted thinking, could not see beyond the hurt, the unearned guilt, the unfair accusation, to find a way to cope with someone else’s choices, and so she made her own.
In despair, so focused inward they couldn’t see the end of their pain, they couldn’t see the web of connections they shared with others, they couldn’t see the love of those around them – both Laura and Jami chose to end their lives.
This act, suicide, has such lasting impacts on those left behind. Whether intentional or not, it is an act of great cruelty that causes pain and damages those left behind. Jami, you knew this and still you could not stay your hand.
How do we teach ourselves that sorrow, that guilt, that hurt are a part of life, that as the flip sides of joy, love, compassion, they provide opportunities for growth, for transcendence. The guilt, pain, hurt, will end; they are transient, to be replaced by joy, love, compassion, to be replaced by more mistakes, all opportunities for growth. What feels so hopeless and insurmountable today will pass. We will look back; we will learn and grow from the past; we will be stronger, more resilient for having persevered. So little in life is worth choosing death.
As I watch my daughter, my son, in the aftermath of the devastating loss of their friends to suicide. I know a few things. I know that we must teach trust in connection. I know that we must teach communication. I know that isolation in pain can lead to a killing spiral. Reaching out when in pain is difficult, but critically necessary for healing, sometimes for simply surviving.
Laura and Jami, I cry for you, for the loss of your potential, for the depth of your despair, for the desperation in your choices. I cry for all who loved you and are searching for meaning. I hope that the tragedy of your choices will provide strength for those who loved you, strength in their connections to one another, strength in their common loss.