“Zen wants us to acquire a new point of view to look into the mysteries of life. This is because Zen has come to the conclusion that the logical process of reasoning is powerless to give satisfaction to our deepest spiritual needs.” ~ D.T. Suzuki
Are you an orphan? Are both your parents gone now? How do we deal with this? I think of both my mother and my father every day. Even though I had issues with them both growing up, now that they are gone, I feel their absence keenly. And I wonder will there ever be a day where I don’t think of them or miss their loving acceptance of me? No one cares as much about you as your mother and father! That is, if you were lucky enough to have such a parent.
I had a very good friend named Alice who didn’t have that kind of loving experience. She didn’t feel loved growing up in the way I did because her mother was bipolar and was hospitalized several times when my friend Alice was a child. When her mother was home, she wasn’t loving or particularly kind. In fact, she had few memories of her childhood. That, in itself, should have been a source of concern to me.
However, I didn’t think too much about the traumatic upbringing that 57-year-old Alice had. I only knew that she was a great friend to be with. She was smart, funny, kind and interested in books, music and singing, as I was. We both had husbands who worked in Information Technology (they were also friends) and we had two children around the same ages. We were also neighbors and attended the same church, singing in the choir together.
One fateful day, I talked to her onthe phone and she told me she was depressed. I mistakenly thought I understood this feeling and said I was depressed too, when my mother died. Alice said,“No, what you felt was grief. Depression is different.” She added that she felt like her life was over. Rather than ask her to go more deeply into her feelings of profound pain, I instead said, “You are just going through a transition,” as one of her daughters was recentlymarried and the other was planning to get married one year later. In retrospect, I wish I had just listened to her and not tried to talk her out of her feelings. This wasn’t helpful. I also wanted to tell her I loved her but I didn’t do that either. That was the last time I ever talked to Alice.
The following week, her husband called me and told me Alice had taken her life in the bedroom of their shared suburban home. This was the most traumatic thing that I had ever experienced, worse even than the death of my parents. Like others shaken by the suicide of a loved one, I could not make sense of what she had done. Why? Why? Why? This question just kept banging around in my head. I was hurt and angry. I wanted to confront her with my anger.
- Alice, why didn’t you call me and tell me explicitly that you didn’t want to live any more? Maybe I could have said the right thing to save you. You didn’t give me that chance.
- Did you think of your husband at all, and how traumatic it would be for him to find you like that? He had to call 911 while trying to revive you. Jesus Christ.
- Did you think of your daughters and how hurt they would be, not just in the weeks or months or years that passed, but really for the rest of their lives? No mother to call when they give birth for thefirst time and have questions about what to do. No mother to share their amazing bundle of joy with. This absence will be profoundly felt, especially then, and other special occasions that are too numerous to list.
I am glad you found a way to end your pain but for the survivors, for those of us who loved you, the pain jus tgoes on and on. The pain goes on, the hurt goes on, and the anger goes on, in an endless alternating dance of troublesome, upsetting, emotions.
Suicide is just another word for murder. And you murdered my best friend. How could you do that? I am sorry but I don’t feel understanding right now. Your death was a huge blow. And that makes me so angry at you. It didn’t have to happen.
On other days, though, I yearn to forgive you. On such a day, I take a Zumba class because you told me it was fun to exercise by dancing. I remember then what a good friend you were to me. We laughed a lot together and shared our joys, our sorrows, our otherwise unspoken hurts.
Some days I weary of life’s demands and that’s when I feel some understanding of what you did. But most of the time, life is worth living. I am not going to blame you. But I am not going to feel guilt either. If you wanted to die, that was ultimately your choice. And I have to accept that I will never really understand why you took your life, even though you wrote not one, but two, suicide notes to explain your reasons. Some questions simply don’t have adequate answers to satisfy our need for understanding.
Life Lesson: The suicide of a loved one really hurts. It’s okay to be hurt and angry. It’s okay to never really understand why. These feelings might never go away either. But don’t blame yourself if someone you love has taken his/her life. It was truly out of your control.
3 thoughts on “Lesson Five: Some Questions Don’t Have Answers”
Very thoughtful. I smiled as I remembered Alice. I miss her too.
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aaahhhh, nancy, thanks for having the courage to share a bit of your heartfelt experience . You’re right. Sometimes there are no answers. X
Thanks, Kathryn. And you are right: it does take courage to share such a painful story. But if it can help others, it’s worth the risk. 😘