I am currently reading a great memoir called “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory” by Caitlin Doughty. I first saw Caitlin on YouTube a few weeks ago on her channel “Ask a Mortician“. Caitlin is an advocate and educator on death. She is death positive and through her work she sets out to change our Western perspective of death. Death is feared by many in North America and we have become so far removed from it physically and emotionally. I highly suggest reading her book, watching her channel and checking out the website The Order of the Good Death.
There is a part in Caitlin’s book where she discusses the day she cremated the body of a young man who killed himself. As she shares his method, her thoughts on it and what witnesses may be going through I found myself thinking about my own attempt to end my life.
Caitlin quotes Romanian philosopher, Emil Cioran:
…this world can take everything from us…but no one has the power to keep us from wiping ourselves out.
Cioran believes that suicide is really the only right we TRULY have as humans. I would agree. While I believe in supporting people in not ending their lives, who am I decide for them if they should keep living?We should have suicide prevention programs and we need to accept that people will still end their lives because that is what they have decided to do. Many of you may hate some of the things I say on someone having the right to kill themselves. I believe this links back to our culture’s current fear of death and strong desire to avoid it at all costs. Death is bad to us, therefore, suicide, choosing to die, is unacceptable. We are supposed to always want to live.
My chronic suicidal thoughts and attempt have helped me not fear death. I don’t want to die and if I was dying I would be very sad because I want to keep going. I am, however, ok with dying eventually and knowing that people die. That’s life. I am not the person who wants to live forever. I want to live a full life, maybe be in my 90s, hopefully, and then die. I don’t have complete control over when or how I die and I will not let that stop me from living.
Aside from reflecting on how my suicidal thoughts and attempt have made me decently death positive (I still have a way to go) I also started thinking about what I would say to someone if I saw them in the process of trying to end their life. I imagine myself seeing that something is happening and telling them, “Hey, I have a feeling this moment is really hard for you, is that right? I had a similar moment years ago when I thought that dying was the only thing that was going to make life better. I survived and my life got better. I’d really like to talk to you. Would you like to grab a coffee?” Who knows if this would work and if it did not and I saw them die, I know that I would carry guilt and pain despite acknowledging people have the right to choose to live or die. On the other hand, if telling someone about my attempt makes them think about theirs and puts them on a different path then that would be amazing. Everyone deserves the opportnity to make the best life for themselves.
I am glad I had the opportunity to try again.