Why Bother Telling the Truth About Suicide?

Why Bother Telling the Truth About Suicide?

Recently, a friend called to tell me the sad news that she’d lost her father to suicide. Knowing she has a preteen son, I wondered if she’d tell him the truth about his grandpa’s death. Thankfully, she did. 

Telling the Truth

Telling a child the truth about a relative’s death by suicide is not easy. Being sensitive to their age is of course paramount, but eventually, they will want to know the story behind the death of the one they knew and loved. Speaking from experience, keeping someone’s death by suicide a secret only adds layers to an already complex and confusing set of circumstances. Eventually, children grow into adults and will stumble upon the truth for themselves. Then they will wonder why no one ever told them the truth.

I am not sure what motivated my mother to mute the truth of my father’s death by suicide from me. She revealed the sad ending of our dad’s life to my three oldest siblings, but lied to the rest of us. In so doing, she allowed our imagination to fill in the blanks. 

Before I heard the real story behind my dad’s death, I’d conjured other fanciful scenarios. First, I envisioned Dad leaving Mom because she’d had an affair. I thought that perhaps he was still alive and just living somewhere else. Another fantasy included mom’s jealous lover murdering my father. These myths filled the void until a few days after his death when I had the chance to ask an older sister to tell me the truth. 

Withholding factual details only constrained my grief process, limited my opportunity to voice my grief, made me feel as though I was an anomaly and created a chasm of distrust between my mother and me. Telling the truth is not easy, but lying only encumbers something that is already  awkward and difficult.

My friend now carries her own load of grief along with a huge responsibility. Her responses to her father’s death by suicide will teach her son how to grieve when there is a loss by suicide. He will be watching her and he will notice.

Why bother telling the truth about suicide? Although hearing the truth is painful, it is better than living a fantasy.

Why Bother Investigating our Past?

Why Bother Investigating Our Past?

In early November of this year, my book, A Heart’s Journey to Forgiveness, will be released. Like delivering my first child, I am nervous and excited at the same time. 

With the book release, I have opportunities to give interviews, something I’ve never done before. But as of last Friday, I now have one under my belt. 

Thankfully, because the questions were sent to me ahead of time, I did not have to answer any one of them off the cuff. Instead, I had the time to ruminate on them. One of the questions was, “As the sixth child among seven, your sister said “you were born into chaos.” Why did you want to write about your chaotic family life and upbringing?”

The short answer was, I had to. 

  The Power of the Past

The long answer to that particular question was that my body and my brain had ingested the trauma of my father’s suicide and the story replayed itself over and over and over. Without listening to that voice from the past, I never would have been able to unhook myself from the powerful effects of my past. The experience of my father’s suicide, along with my earlier attempts to  ignore its ramifications in my life, shaped my emotions, perspectives and behaviors. Frankly, I did not like who I’d become.  Anger and discontentment dominated me. I was very unhappy with who I’d turned out to be. 

The past can be a difficult thing for any of us to unearth, yet without investigating our  inward turmoil, the negative force of that turmoil holds us hostage. We’ve all lived through tragic circumstances. Inevitably,  the event leaves a mark on us. As kids, we don’t have the tools to unpack and analyze what happened. Instead, we only have the resolve to survive.  

For most of us, it’s not until we reach adulthood that we get the chance to look back at those sad, defining moments and consider their impact on our present lives. While the past is impossible to eliminate, it is not impossible to evaluate. 

Why bother to investigate our past? Exploring the past sheds light on the present, and empowers us to shape better moments. 

 

Why Bother Not Being an Impostor?

Why Bother Not Being an Impostor?

Years ago there was a game show on television called, To Tell the Truth. The object of the game was to stump four celebrity panelists. There were three contestants, one who was the “real” central character known for some notable experience, while the other two were impostors. The better the con artists played the part of the “real” character, the more money they earned. The  contestant who succeeded in fooling the panelists received $250 for each panelist they fooled. In the end, it paid to be a bamboozler. 

Will the “real” _________please stand up?

Being honest with others and ourselves begins with taking a look at what we believe about being honest. First of all, is it a quality that I admire in others? Is it worth my time and effort to nurture this virtue in myself? What will I gain or lose if I practice the true to life person that I am?  

Sometimes, when we observe what something is not and contrast it with what it is, then we gain a better perspective of its true meaning. For instance, being ourselves is not about attacking others with our opinions. Neither is it about getting everything “off of our chest”. Our true identity is not toxic or harmful to others. Granted, some may not like us for who we are, but it’s not because we are the type of person who upon waking up each morning wonders how best to offend someone. 

It is best to remember that our true identity is coupled with our values, and not so much by our preferences. What we are partial to comes, goes and expands with experience. As an illustration, spinach was introduced to me as a canned vegetable. When my mother served it, it appeared as a green slime on my dinner plate. “No thank you, I do not like spinach,” I decided at the age of five or six.

Much later in life though, I discovered fresh spinach. Now, I enjoy it. My preference for this vegetable was altered because I had a better experience with it. 

Not so much with our values. These are more deeply seated in our hearts and our guts. These ideals, standards or morals may be so deep within us that we discover that they are buried under the debris of falsehoods; those ideas we adopt in order to simply be accepted by others. 

Finally, similar to thinking before we speak or counting to ten when angry, real people know how to pause, and check in with themselves while they consider their words and actions before going live or public with their truthfulness. Does what I have to say, or do my actions matter so much that others need to know and see this about me? 

One of the incentives that moved me from being a bamboozler to practicing being myself was the amount of energy it took for me to be someone other than I was. Somewhere along the line I had an epiphany: why push myself into being someone other than who I am? Why not stop and shed the falsehoods? The questions I asked myself put me on a track of truthfulness where I’ve found my own comfortable and somewhat private stride to life.  

Why bother not being an impostor? Only on a game show does it pay to be an impostor. 

Why Bother Considering Humility?

Why Bother Considering Humility? 

Lately, I have been enjoying spring. The warmer weather has me sitting outside in the late afternoons soaking up the sunshine in between intermittent rain showers. The pastel blooms on bushes and trees cause me to pause and take in their beauty while breathing in their sweet scent. Different shades of green contrast with the short lived, yet brilliant colors or red, yellow and purple displayed by tulips, forget me nots, and hyacinths. Birdsong fills the air from dawn to dusk and bees buzz about. In the midst of all this beauty, I am humbled. 

Humility Expands Our Awareness

Being in the presence of nature’s beauty is not the only factor that fosters humility in my life. When I spend time with humble people they also have the same effect on me. Keeping company with unassuming and gracious people makes me want to be unassuming and gracious too.  

Humble people are modest, calm and have a sane estimation of themselves. They are free from competing for anyone’s attention since they are content with who they are. They have a servant’s attitude and heart, but they are not doormats. They make great teammates, bosses, friends, coworkers, students and members of one’s family. 

Narcissism, on the other hand, unlike humility, is problematic. Narcissists are those with over inflated egos. They are conceited, puffed up and more concerned with themselves than others. They lack empathy, and avoid responsibility. They come in all shapes, sizes and are not limited to one gender or another. Everyone has an equal opportunity to be a narcissist. But, humility can liberate us from our inflated view of ourselves.

First off, if we become a little more aware of the simple things in life instead of taking them for granted, our ability toward humility will be heightened while the reins of entitlement will be loosened.  For example, nature does not owe its beauty to me, it is simply beautiful and I get to appreciate it for its simple beauty. 

Secondly, being willing to defer to another person opens up an opportunity for me to expand my knowledge. When I can admit that I am not an expert, then I can be taught by someone who is. 

Finally, when I practice equanimity, humility follows. Throwing a fit because I am inconvenienced by someone or something is a display of a “me-first” attitude. I can understand a two year old’s inability to demonstrate equanimity, but as adults, we certainly are capable.

So why bother considering humility? Humility is a virtue that inspires us to avoid arrogance, admit our shortcomings and practice equanimity.  I think humility is definitely worth considering for our wellness as well as for the wellness of those around us.

Why Bother With Integrity?

Why Bother With Integrity?

Living honestly, sincerely, and conscientiously with myself and others is a lifelong endeavor. Along the pathway of life we oftentimes adopt attitudes and actions that are contrary to our basic moral principles. When we do, then it takes time and effort to reflect on how to realign ourselves once again with our core values. 

                  Staying True

Sometimes we may need to schedule a chunk of time to get away by ourselves for a day or two and ruminate on the choices we’ve made and where they have taken us. Other times, when we’ve lost clarity and seem to be moving through a dense fog in the wrong direction, making an appointment with a counselor can be helpful. 

But, what if we were to examine our moral fiber on a daily basis? What if we reflected daily on our attitudes and actions? Is it possible to make a regular and daily practice of considering our words and actions toward others? I think so. Much like the benefits of eating well, exercising, and getting a good night’s rest, we could make a habit of considering our thoughts and actions and reap the benefits of such a practice.

Knowing ourselves is key to knowing when we are thinking or acting off kilter. Recognizing the warning signs and giving them our attention is paramount to staying true to our morals. How do I know when I am saying something contrary to my beliefs? Do I feel uncomfortable? And if so, do I press forward and move on anyway? Do I deny the little niggle in my brain or do I actually acknowledge it? 

When I’ve said something inappropriate, overstepped a boundary, ignored a need or just plain cared less when I should have cared more, I know it. I get a sense of discomfort, a feeling of embarrassment or remorse. Though I can’t take back my words, I can be grateful that awareness is the first step to changing my ways. 

Becoming aware of our patterns—when I am stressed I feel anger, when I am tired I feel hopeless, or when I am afraid I lose my ability to speak—is helpful. Being mindful makes us more aware and being aware keeps us aligned to living morally. 

Like other healthy habits, living in sync with our values pays off. We are more competent, less wishy-washy and happier with ourselves. We are more coherent and can consider others by offering them a hand up or an encouraging word. Our perspective is broader and we can see farther than just the end of our own nose. 

 Why bother with integrity? Keeping ourselves aligned to our core values is part of living well. And everyone benefits from living well.

Why Bother Being Vulnerable?

Why Bother Being Vulnerable?

Being emotionally vulnerable is a good way to get hurt. It is also a good way to nurture and mature in the relationships that are important to us. Depending upon our personal history, previous experiences, or personality, laying ourselves open to others may be too big of a risk. We may have tried being vulnerable once before, but it resulted in rejection.  And who wants to set themselves up for another wounding?  Then there are those personalities that lend themselves to remaining emotionally out of reach to others. Some people prefer to insulate themselves behind cool walls of stone or to ignore any bids for emotional connections. Yet, daily, we have a choice to practice unmasking ourselves around others. When we do, we might find ourselves a little less anxious, a little more happy and a bit more at ease in the world. 

 Courage

I once heard that courage is not the absence of fear, but feeling the fear and doing it anyway. I believe courage is a main component to becoming an emotionally accessible and unguarded individual. None of us are exempt from injustices, broken promises, or wrecked relationships.  Anyone of us could tell stories about how we have been  wounded by another.  Yet, to guard ourselves from ever being misunderstood, misrepresented or even misguided again, is to also close ourselves off from what is possible. If we guard and shield ourselves from ever being wounded again, we also close ourselves off from the possibility of having good relationships, deeper connections or maturing emotionally. 

Recently, I have been shopping for a new primary care provider. My long term physician retired long ago and finding someone of the same easy going caliber has been an arduous journey.  When I stumbled upon a new medical service in town, I filled out some rather personal forms required for new patients. The questions that I was required to answer dug rather deeply into not only my medical history, but also into my mental and emotional past. I caught myself wanting to fudge on my answers, tell a little lie, or to not mention what felt unmentionable. It took a lot of determination to answer as honestly as possible. My first first appointment involved a face to face, in person, hour long conversation with the physician about how I answered the questions on the forms. The person I sat across from was emotionally accessible, friendly, courteous, and professional. In essence, they invited me to set everything on the table. I confessed some of the things I had omitted, amplified on others, and disclosed more to this person than I had previously thought I would. Yet, I knew that only when I spoke honestly, would they get an accurate picture of my wellness and my weaknesses. Holding back would have only resulted in misrepresenting myself. 

Why bother being vulnerable? It is worth communicating to others our honest to goodness selves. When we do, then we won’t misrepresent ourselves and we will feel a little less anxious, a little more happy and a bit more at ease in the world.