In a previous article, I shared a WHO statistic that there are about 40 deaths per second due to suicide. That may sound a bit staggering and unbelievable, but it seems there are far more cases than we have captured. One report says that this may have been underreported, due to the stigma associated with suicide, of which some such deaths have been classified as “unintentional accidents.” I also mentioned about three (3) common states of the mind that often degenerates to suicide; viz. shame, misery, and hopelessness.
One of the questions people ask is, “If I am in a state of shame, misery and hopelessness, how can I turn it around?”
1. Acceptance. Acceptance is a state of non-resistance. It is coming to terms with what ‘is’. For example, there was war in your neighbourhood and some of your loved ones were killed in the process; armed robbers raided your house and raped you; your relationship is in advanced state but suddenly your intended called it to quit; you got fired from work; a drunk driver knocked down your child or someone dear to you; you made a bad investment; the list is endless. In all these examples, one common denominator is that something unwanted, unexpected, or undesirable has happened.
Do not try to deny it, like you are in a trance or something. Do not blame yourself like it was all your fault; like you could have done something to prevent it from happening (Yes, this may be possible, but right now, it has happened!)
It may then help in such a situation to say Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer:
God, grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and Wisdom to know the difference.
2. Beliefs. When the unexpected happens, you may also learn to pay attention to the beliefs you hold about yourself, people, and things around you. You can know your beliefs by tracking your thoughts. Do you think that is the end of the world for you? Do you think your intended called off the relationship because you are not good enough? Do you think you are good-for-nothing because you got fired? Do you believe you can never make it in life simply because you lost your parents? Do you think you can never recover from the bad investment?
I read an article once on what Malcolm Gladwell called “Eminent Orphans”. According to him, “the death of a mother or father is a spur, a propellant that sends them catapulting into life”. Historian Lucille Iremonger discovered that 67 percent of British prime ministers from the start of the 19th century to the start of World War II lost a parent before the age of 16. Twelve presidents — George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, Andrew Johnson, Rutherford Hayes, James Garfield, Grover Cleveland, Herbert Hoover, Gerald Ford, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama — lost their fathers while they were young.
The article ended with this statement,
“…The hurt is there. It’s how we handle it that makes the difference.”
3. Courage. “The hurt is there. It’s how we handle it that makes the difference.” That ‘how’ is courage. One of the best definitions of courage is “Strength in the face of pain or grief.” And another, “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.” A phrase in the Serenity Prayer says, “…Courage to change the things I can…”
When we allow strength to flow into us after an episode of grief, what then happens is that we can allow inspiration to come to us. We can begin to see light in the tunnel and forge a path out of the misery. Like the saying, “if life throws limes at you, make lemonades.” You can only see the possibility of making lemonades when you do not yield to the situation. Loss can be painful, but I like the way this article captured it:
“Because they are on their own, they are forced to persist, to invent, to chart their own way…”
When we lose the things that give us a sense of security, we then become fearless; we have died already, so no need to be afraid of dying anymore. We are compelled, as it were, to develop extra muscles, grit, and self-reliance —ingredients essential for success.
4. Escalate. You are not alone in this world, even when that seems to be your reality now. There are people and organizations out there who are willing to walk with you down this dark valley. Speak out. Talk to someone; anyone willing to listen. You can find hotlines to call in your country from this website. Please save it in your phone book for easy referral.
5. Forgiveness. The last point I love to mention here is Forgiveness. You may be caught in feelings of regret, guilt, shame, and anger towards yourself, and wishing you had done something to prevent the unwanted condition. Sure, it may be possible to prevent it, but right now, at this moment, it has happened. You will now need to forgive yourself, accepting that it has happened; believing that it all happened for a reason, and that reason is for your ultimate good; taking courage to forge ahead; and talking about your feelings to people who are willing to help you through this grieving phase of your life. When you do this, you will begin to experience a change in how you view yourself. Instead of feelings of guilt, shame, and anger, you begin to replace those feelings with empathy, compassion, and love toward yourself.
And in the words of Miguel Angel Ruiz:
“Forgive yourself. The supreme act of forgiveness is when you can forgive yourself for all the wounds you’ve created in your own life. Forgiveness is an act of self-love. When you forgive yourself, self-acceptance begins and self-love grows.”
I hope you find the space to forgive yourself, accept what is, and evolve to live your best life.
Dele Ayo Bankole
For a more in-depth write-up on self-harm, addiction, and recovery, please visit this article from Keith.