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So, Why ask Why?

SO WHY ASK WHY By : Tim Jackson

Survivors can't stop asking why-at least for a while. Margaret Atwood describes a survivor's incessant search for answers:

Curiosity is not our only motive: Love or grief or despair or hatred is what drives us on. We'll spy relentlessly on the dead. We'll open their letters. We'll read their journals. We'll go through their trash, hoping for a hint, a final word, and explanation, for those who have deserted us -who've left us holding the bag, which is often a good deal emptier than we'd supposed. The search for clues to help them understand propels survivors to ask, "What could they possibly have been feeling or thinking that made dying seem like the only opinion they had left?"

What Caused Them To Choose suicide?

No one knows with certainty the final feelings or thoughts that push a person to suicide. But the brutal honesty of those who hurt so bad that they want to die provides insight into the overwhelming desperation and distorted determination that seems to best describe the turmoil churning within.

Overwhelming Desperation

T.S. Eliot wrote, "Man cannot bear much reality." Reality in a fallen world will eventually either drive us to God or to despair.

The desperate reality for those who take their own life often includes but is not limited to what seems like unbearable pain, intolerable isolation, and debilitating hopelessness. Unbearable pain is much more than chronic physical pain. Internal anguish is the basic ingredient of a suicide. Acting on a death wish is the ultimate form of flight from the pain of unmet longings and seemingly insurmountable losses.

Two thousand years before Christ, a man by the name of Job suffered such despair of heart that he cried out :

Why is light given to those in misery, and life to the bitter of soul,
to those who long for death that does not come,
who search for it more than for hidden treasure,
who are filled with gladness and rejoice when they reach the grave ?

A suicidal struggle is almost always a battle with ambivalence, but at some point death becomes more attractive. While most don't necessarily want to die, they simply don't want to continue to live with the pain that has become unbearable for them. Intolerable isolation compounds despair. Much of what we long for is related to meaningful relationships within a family or community. Suicidal people often feel alone and confined to the darkness of their pain. They feel abandoned by God and by those they looked to for the loved they craved. It's difficult enough to endure pain with the help and support of others. But when a suicidal person is abandoned and alone, hope evaporates.

Debilitating hopelessness sets in when the pains and losses of life seem intolerable, when shameful consequences are unavoidable, and when a person feels his world is spinning out of control. He feels powerless and worthless. A suicidal person often feels, "No matter how hard I try, I can't change what really matters to me. I'm such a loser. I don't deserve to live." With the illusion of control stripped away, the suicidal person, rather than openly facing what he's powerless to handle on his own, hides under a blanket of self-contempt and yearns to disappear. Self-destruction becomes the only hope of escape from the pain and isolation.

People seem to be able to bear or tolerate depression as long as there is the belief that things will improve. If that belief cracks or disappears, suicide becomes the option of choice.

Persistent, unfulfilled longings lead to a condition of hopelessness that infects the mind and distorts determination to live.

Distorted Determination

Self preservation is normal. Self-sacrifice is learned. But the determination to self-destruct is the result of a darkened state of mind that has been altered by despair and blinded by anger. The demand for relief from the painful torment of living is the most obvious form of suicidal determination. As one suicide note read, "Of course, I do not want to die, but it is suffering to live."

Rather than battle through despair and cry out for help, the suicidal person loses all hope of ever being rescued -so he gives up. The demand for immediate relief from vulnerability is, in the end, an angry refusal to suffer while waiting for God to rescue -both now and in the hereafter. An even darker side of suicidal determination can sometimes include the demand for revenge. Most of us want to believe that people commit suicide to end their pain, not to create pain for others. But that's not always the case.

Suicide can be the ultimate door-slamming exit that ensures nothing will ever be resolved. From this vantage point, suicide is an act of immense cruelty and disdain for others. As one survivor wrote, "Even as we begin to understand that our loved one killed (himself) in a desperate attempt to end (his) pain, we often feel that (his) anguish has not been extinguished but simply passed on to us."

The torment passed on is sometimes more intentional than incidental. The location, timing and violent method of a suicide can be choreographed to send a message. Survivors feel stained with indelible marks they can never wash off. They feel that the loved one who committed suicide was saying: "I'd rather die than live the rest of my life with you." "You didn't do enough for me." "How could you hurt me so bad?"

Nothing trumps suicide as the ultimate in -your face form of rejection that leaves both an internal scar and external stigma. The tandem demands for relief and revenge betray the heart of the suicidal person —the angry refusal to trust anyone ever agin. Suicide in such instances is the last desperate act of final rebellion against a hostile world and an uncooperative God, neither of which provided what was expected or wanted.


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