Lives that hang in the balance just may wait another day, and then another and yet another until they no longer have the desire to end it, because they feel connected and understood. Is it possible that truly connecting is more powerful than we realize? I think it is.
It’s been seven years since my baby brother died of suicide. It has taken this long to say it for what it is—suicide. Calling it “either a freak accident or possible suicide,” felt a tad better because it implied that maybe it wasn’t suicide. Perhaps it’s easier for me to type it than to hear my voice say it. Whether it was just a cry for help or he wanted to die, I am not sure.
There’s evidence that he changed his mind just before it was too late, but it was too late – a choice he made ended his life.
I think his death at the tender age of 15 is, in part, one of the reasons I am such an advocate for authentic connection. We all knew that Jeremy struggled to connect with others, especially his peers. He was a little different than kids his age and painfully shy. Within our family, he was funny and witty and adventurous. My dad will never admit it, but we all know that Jeremy was his favorite – his little buddy -no, our favorite little buddy. Yet amid all the love, and I’ll admit some dysfunctions (is any family completely free of dysfunctions?), Jeremy masked his struggles well.
Jeremy isn’t the only one who masked his struggles behind sarcasm and a smile. I have done the same thing, and countless people I’ve discussed struggles with, have also masked their pain in a variety of ways.
Maybe it’s a gift, but maybe it’s a curse when you can bury your pain so deeply inside yourself that others cannot see it.
His death shattered the many walls we didn’t even know we had built between each other as a family. Since then, our family has rebuilt our connections, and we have become much closer and REAL with each other, real with ourselves. It is a continuous process, but we have found hidden strengths, amid our struggles.
I don’t share this to stir up sympathy for me or negative sentiments toward anyone in my family–we all did the best we could with the knowledge and skills we had. I share this to stir up compassion for others.
The more I open up and talk about depression (which is something I also struggled with, but have overcome) or painful feelings of loneliness, loss, hate, anger, fear, abandonment, betrayal, humiliation, abuse, or whatever one has endured.
I realize one thing we all have in common is that we keep our guard up while assuming that others have it all together, or are intolerant, or are jerks or fill in the blank.
Often we are already on the defense because we don’t want anyone to know. But what don’t we want others to know? That we are real? That we are human? That we don’t know all the answers? That we’ve made mistakes? That sometimes life is beautiful, but sometimes it is such a mess that we feel like we are drowning? Or that our heart feels like it’s about to explode, or implode?
I don’t know anyone who has lived a life free from pain or mistakes. Do you?
I will be bold enough to say that we’ve all had messed up things happen in our lives that we don’t deserve, or maybe sometimes we do deserve what we got because we dished it out, but it’s hard to admit when we struggle or when we make mistakes, or when we are wrong, or that our viewpoint is limited.
We silently struggle, and then put on our “game faces,” or we build walls, or deflect with sarcasm and an empty smile, or deflect by acting tough and apathetic. There are countless ways to deflect or mask what we are feeling. Some of the most infuriating or abrasive people you know may be the ones who are hurting the most.
Sometimes it’s the quiet and positive ones who are hurting as well. I wonder, how many people are dying to connect?
I’ve seen many hearts change when they finally felt understood. It doesn’t take much to look someone in the eye and ask how they are doing and wait for a real answer, and not judge. Or to sit side by side and listen in order to understand. We don’t all have to agree with each other, but if we try to understand, it might be surprising to learn how much we do have in common.
Lives that hang in the balance just may wait another day, and then another and even another until they no longer have the desire to end it all, because they feel connected and understood. Is it possible that truly connecting is more powerful than we realize? I think it is.
Advocating For Connection
March 1, 2018