This past week, after I’d left to go baby-sit my grandson, I got a call from my partner at home saying that he had heard a woman apparently in great distress, screaming somewhere outside. Upon going out to investigate, he found this woman running across the street to get help from a neighbor and yelling in anguish, “He shot himself, he shot himself!” Her brother, had indeed, fatally shot himself sitting in the recliner in the front living room.
We wanted to do something to help relieve some of the suffering surrounding this event. The next day, as small as the gesture might seem, I went to purchase some flowers to put on the man’s front porch, to honor him and to let the family know that someone in the neighborhood cared about what had happened.
For some reason, I felt I wanted certain kinds of flowers and hesitantly told the florist about what had happened and what I was doing. Referring to the act of suicide, she said, “It is such a selfish thing to do.”
Having attempted to take my own life more than once in my late teens and early 20s, I know the extreme emotional pain one feels to be compelled to make such a devastating decision. I explained this to the florist and she seemed to understand.
I would like others to understand as well. I’ve heard the “it’s selfish” response more than once over the years. Of course, it is very painful for those who care about the person and, of course, it could be called selfish if that means the person is only thinking about him/herself. But understand that he/she wasn’t emotionally able to think of or feel anything else but pain. One way to look at it is, imagine that pins are being pushed under your fingernails with no end in sight. Would you say that you were selfish if your screaming was waking everyone in the house?
I’m turning 60 next week and I still vividly remember the severe emotional pain of psychotic depression.
I remember thinking that I would be willing to have a body part, maybe my hand, cut off if I could be rid of this pain. That’s a pretty big deal for a 17-year-old girl. And it went on for months, years, with no end in sight.
So please, think a little bit before you might call someone “selfish” for taking their life. It’s like adding insult to injury. Who knows the bigger picture for this person.