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Life-Affirming Lessons From a Suicide

Bruce offers hope during challenging times.

There are many relationships we have in life, naturally. We have family, friends, business associates and what I like to call virtual friends. Virtual friends are those we know via social media but may have never really met. I have many of these relationships, some of which have bloomed into meaningful associations and actual real-life friendships. Recently, I learned that one of my virtual friends had committed suicide. He was a very successful man, a father of six and one of those friends I’d never met or spoken with. 

When I learned of his tragic death and the fact that he’d suffered from lifelong depression, I wondered if I might have made a difference had I made an effort to really know him. Depression is insidious and even those people who seem to have everything to live for can succumb to its tentacles of despair. This is evidently what happened to this man. 

On further reflection, I realized my knowing him or not was irrelevant. What I took away from his death were all the reasons to live that I believe and that I believe we need to be reminded of and share. Life has so much to offer, so many riches to enjoy, so many experiences to have, that the idea of ending it anytime before the journey ends on its own is unfathomable to me. Maybe share this short list with someone you know who may be living through the trials of depression or may just need a little reminder of the joys to be found in living. 

1. Don’t Give Up 

Yes, it’s a corny saying, but don’t give up. The world is filled with amazing stories of comebacks; of people who were so down they never thought they’d see up again. Why can’t you be that person? How many people do you know that have come back from a setback or numerous setbacks? 

I just think of my parents whenever I feel sorry for myself, which, these days, is less and less. Maybe I’ve actually begun to grow up in my sixth decade of life? My parents suffered the loss of two children, numerous diseases and numerous financial hardships. My mother, in particular, always had a kind word and smile for everyone she encountered. My dad never complained. What do I have to complain about in comparison? 

2. Be Grateful 

Try to wake up each day and say “Thank You” for something good in your life. Maybe it’s waking up without pain and you say “Thanks” for simply feeling good? Maybe it’s the simple act of going to the bathroom and your plumbing is working. Imagine if it weren’t? 

There is so much that most of us have to be grateful for that we take for granted. This is especially true for those of us fortunate enough to live in the U.S. or other countries with such a comfortable way of life. What if you woke up each day in the squalor of a poor African country and just quenching your thirst was a daily challenge? 

3. This Too Shall Pass 

This great saying is often attributed to Solomon from biblical times. We don’t know where it truly came from. Often, someone will offer “This too shall pass” as words of comfort to someone going through something difficult. It’s true that most things do ease with time, even the death of a loved one. 

I like to think of this phrase during the good times, as well, because anyone who has lived any length of time knows that the good times can go away just as easily as the bad times may ease with time. This lesson is simply to appreciate the good times and know that the bad times will likely fade. 

4. Give Back 

The best way to appreciate life, to count your own blessings, is to help others. First, you will feel good. That is guaranteed. Second, you will potentially get a painful lesson in how lucky your life truly is. 

Help an elderly person who is alone. Mentor a disabled child or adult. After all, disabled adults still need compassion, yet we often direct our attentions and care to young disabled people. Volunteer at a hospital, health clinic, homeless shelter, and then come home and complain. 

5. Get a Dog 

We just recently lost one of our beloved dogs, Tache, at 15 years old. She had lived a full life and given us plenty of joy and companionship. I remember her and her boyfriend, Simon, most lovingly when I reflect on their devotion to me during a very rough passage in my life. 

This occurred during the early months following the end of my first marriage. My soon-to-be ex-wife had left our home and our boys. I became a 24/7 single dad almost literally overnight. The boys were 6 and 9, and scared. They didn’t understand what was going on and, frankly, at times neither did I. 

Many nights, after their bedtime, I would lie in bed brooding, thinking and worrying. Most of those nights, the boys would sleepily come into my room and crawl into my bed, followed by Tache and Simon. I was always in the middle, crushed between my boys and 150 pounds of dog. Those nights, those furry mouthfuls kept me sane. 

Of course, there’s a slight tongue-in-cheek attitude with number five, but having a pet during difficult times is quite comforting. Mainly, I hope to encourage everyone to stop and smell the roses, realize that hope springs eternal, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, there’s no time like the present, and to wish upon a star. It will be all right…

Charlene Ross October 12, 2011 at 12:38 AM
Great column today Bruce and I am so sorry about your friend. I know what it's like to have online friendships through blogging and social media. I have been lucky enough to meet many of these friends in person, but many of them I have not met or even talked to on the phone, yet I share a special friendship and deep connection with them - so I know that a "virtual friendship" can be as real a friendship as any out there. I'm sure you will miss your friend greatly and just wanted you to know that someone out there "gets it". I also thought your tips were really great. I bet you helped someone today.
Belle October 12, 2011 at 07:55 PM
Just wanted to let you know what a insightful column you wrote today. I am plan on sharing it with several friends. It seems that alot of people I care about are going through a rough patch these days. I always enjoy your writings, but this was especially poignant. Thank You..

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