It’s Bigger Than, “I Love You”

People keep saying to “tell the people that you love them” when we hear someone has committed suicide.

That feels – to me – like saying “thoughts and prayers” after school shootings.

Having traveled through “the valley of the shadow of death” two times in my life where I entertained not living*, I knew that people loved me. That was a given. The problem was, the place I was in was so dark, so cold, so sunken that the concept of love (and the healing it brings) seemed light years away.

Each time, I slipped away gradually. It was a slow flowing, day by day over time. It was literally happening inside of me while I was still in school, getting good grades, crushing on boys, listening to music, learning how to drive or taking care of my brand new baby, going on vacation, getting promoted at work.

It was just a thick, heavy, unshakable shadow that kept stretching out behind me, so slowly that I’m not sure the people around me understood how powerful the force had become.

The loss of Robin Williams still leaves me at a loss for words because I identify with him the most. As we hear the news of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, my mind’s eye still turns back to him.

I can remember being able to make people laugh until tears came out of their eyes, but still getting into bed that night and being okay with the thought of never waking up.

And knowing people loved me added to my loneliness. See, they kept saying the loved me when they could not even see me. They were looking right at me and still I was invisible.

Look, I don’t know what we can do to keep our loved ones out of the grasp of suicide. I don’t know what makes the thought become action. I do know I am fortunate (VERY, VERY FORTUNATE) that something down within me ultimately wanted to live more than I didn’t.

But it has to be more than “I love you.” It has to be more “I see you and I don’t know what to do to reach you, but I will stick with you until you win.” It needs to be more, “I have an idea (or I have no idea) what it feels like to be in such a dark place, but I’m willing to listen so you can help me understand.”

By no means do I have the answers but I know words don’t reach that dark and dismal place. But perhaps our actions can…

I do not have answers, but I do have hope.


(*I use the term “not living” because the desire was never to die. The thought was “I don’t want to be here.” We look at suicide with non-depressive minds and assume the person wants to die. That’s not my experience or what I’ve heard. My experience is that your mind wants it all to STOP. Not die. STOP. And the words “suicide” and “killing myself” were never in my mind. It came to me as “end it” or “make it stop” or “stop myself from hurting.”)

Denitra Letrice; TFTBN

What Sorrow Said to Me

Standing up on a chair with my hands high over my head, I was putting folded clothes on the top shelf in my closet when Sorrow tapped me on the shoulder. Quickly, I put the clothes in their place, and stepped down off the chair, down from the high place. Kneeling on the floor, with tears streaming from my eyes, I asked Sorrow, “What have you come to tell me?”

Before it could speak, I did an inventory of my life. In this moment, it is wonderful it seems. My daughter is flourishing. My bills are ALL paid on time and more than the minimum balances. Tuesday, I leave for my first week long vacation since the divorce. Within a year, I will own my own house.

No. Not everything is spectacular. I love elements of my job, but not my job. I love as many people I work with as there are people who get on my last nerve. The evil that men do in the name of political agendas is causing more people to love harder and stronger than ever before. So why would Sorrow visit me now? Why is it here today?

“I welcome your lesson, Sorrow. I’m quieting myself so you can speak to me.”

“You never stop to mourn at the grave,” Sorrow says to me.

I scrunch my face trying to let the words sink in so they make sense.

“You never stop to acknowledge that things not turning out how you planned hurts your feelings or breaks your heart. You would not lower a casket and then not put dirt on top of it. But that is what you do when you are disappointed. You immediately flee the scene.

“No. You don’t physically run away, but you turn your back on the wound refusing to acknowledge it. You turn your face towards the ‘lesson’ like a good (insert any one of these labels – Faithful Christian or Sober Woman or Good Mom or Loving Family Member or Professional Career Woman). That strips you of being human. You deny your hurt and your heart and shift instantly to Plan B. You must think that your hurt is a sign to God that you are not surrender to His Will.

“That is a lie. God is well aware that you can still believe His way is best, even with a broken heart and tears in your eyes. If that was not true, then why would Jesus model the behavior to you in the garden? Why would that moment of humility wind up in the Bible for you to see?”

My tears have stopped so I can calmly listen as Sorrow continues to speak and teach me.

“Because you did not quietly honor Sorrow all along the course of life, I have to soundlessly creep up on you and invade your chores on a sweet Saturday morning. I must touch you on the shoulder to remind you that it is an illusion to be happy all the time. No one in their right mind is happy all the time. No one. And stop listening to people who make you feel like you should.

“You are not tough. You are strong. It’s not the same thing. Tough cannot be penetrated, not even by love. You are strong because your heart is wonderfully soft. It is easily touched. It is flexible. It is pliable. Even after all this time, it still leans with hope each time.

“It is your responsibility as owner of that heart, to let pause to grieve and mourn and rejoice and celebrate. Let it weep for what might have been so it can be clean and clear for what is yet to be. Care for and trust that heart of yours. Honor its wisdom and do not run from me. We help you to remember that it is ALWAYS wise to love. It is ALWAYS wise to hope. It is ALWAYS wise to expect the best. AND… it is ALWAYS wise to grieve.”

And just like that, Sorrow went away.

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