Each year in September, I honor those who have died by suicide. Unfortunately, in my six decades of living, I have to report that I now know seven individuals who have taken their lives. They’re unrelated to each other, but all tragic.
My first early experience with suicide was my beloved grandmother, who took her life in my childhood home when I was just 10 years old.
It was the 1960s and therapy was not commonplace. A few days after I found her – after she’d taken an overdose of sleeping pills – my mother handed me a red leather Kahlil Gibran journal with beautiful quotes across the top of each page. She knew that writing would help me feel better.
My mother, also an only child, was dealing with her own grief, and found it too challenging to manage my grief in addition to hers. She figured that a journal would be a good substitute, and she was right.
That journal served as a springboard for questions begging for answers, such as why my grandmother took her life at the age of 61, and why my parents wouldn’t allow me to go to her funeral. Instead, they sent me to stay with my aunt and uncle.
Writing also led me to ask other meaningful questions. For days on end, I sat in my walk-in closet writing with clothes hanging over my head. I poured my grief onto the journal pages. Those days were also the beginning of my life as a seeker – that is, someone seeking answers to life’s mysteries.
As a seeker, I’ve always found that writing helps me pose and answer important questions, such as those related to my life’s purpose, my destiny, and how to tap into my passions. These questions inspired me to look for the messages of my heart – which came to serve as a source of growth and transformation.
I wanted to understand the reasons why certain things happened. In essence, losing my grandmother led me down a path of self-discovery. Writing also allowed me to tap into questions about my own mortality and helped me come face-to-face with my periodic bouts of depression.
Coincidentally, my grandmother had also been a writer. Years after her passing, I found the journal where she wrote about her tormented life as an orphan and “an unwanted child” during World War I, orphaned as a result of the cholera pandemic in Poland. After reading her words, I realized that we’d shared many parallel experiences and emotions, which led us both to become seekers.
Seekers are often those who have experienced either physical or psychological trauma. Many writers – especially poets like myself – are seekers. While we may not know why we initially sit down to write, as we do so, answers to unanswered questions emerge that can lead to healing and transformation.
Although I became a devoted seeker after my grandmother’s suicide, I believe I was probably one even before that momentous event. Sometimes writing down one’s deepest feelings can be scary, but the results are often worth it. That is, no risk, no reward. Writing from one’s deep, authentic self leads to healing, growth, and transformation.
In addition to writing about my grandmother and trying to understand her for more than 60 years, writing has helped me on my life journey. My grandmother was my primary caretaker, so losing her was extremely painful. I wrote many poems in her honor. One of the first I ever wrote asks why she took her life. It begins: You took your life in the house where we lived together forty years ago. I was ten and you sixty.
In the poem, I wrote about how I remembered her. I also thanked her for instilling in me a love for words. By the end of the poem, I received the answer to my initial question of why she’d taken her life: her deep childhood wounds had led to a profound sense of depression.
Years later in my first memoir, I also wrote about her life and our relationship. The book is called, Regina’s Closet: Finding My Grandmother’s Secret Journal.
I learned that to be a seeker, one needs to be open-minded and consider new ways of thinking and doing. This means opening your mind to examine who you are, your belief systems, and where you’ve come from. It also means pushing yourself to go places spiritually or do things that you might not ordinarily do – that is, releasing fear and pain.
Spiritual seekers have a deep sense of spiritual hunger and a need to understand themselves and their motives, as well as those of others. Even though I am a seeker, I’ve realized that I also seek the opportunity to share my stories with others, which helps them navigate their own journeys.
Spiritual seekers are not necessarily religious. Most often, they have little interest in organized religious practice. In fact, studies have shown that 33 percent of Americans are spiritual and not religious in the more traditional sense. Many of my articles and poems come from the seeker in me. Please check out my website, to see more of my writings.
Below are some writing prompts to bring out the seeker in you. Write as much or as little as you’d like about the following:
You may find that while diving deeply into your mind and heart for answers to the big questions, you will find a level of peace and contentment you hadn’t yet realized.
Are you a seeker of mysteries? Do you remember the time when you became one? What type of discoveries have you made about yourself and the world as a result of your seeking?
My father shot himself in the head and I ended up literally cleaning up the mess. Took care of a very sick mother for 11 years while trying to raise 2 babies and keeping house. Her depression was deep. When she passed on I tried to go back to work, but ended up finding a Psychiatrist for myself. Thank God I found a great one who diagnosed a chronic depression disease which would probably led me to suicide. The condition is hereditary and triggered by major life events. Turns out my great grandmother also took her own life and passed the depression on down. If you’re having trouble seek help right away. They can help you now!!!!
My nephew died by suicide in June. It’s extremely difficult for our family to understand. Death by suicide leaves so many unanswered questions.
Thank you for sharing your story.
I would love to be able to give a hug to the 10year old you having to face such tragic circumstances. ((( xxx ))) In my 73 years I have known only two people who have committed suicide, both male, one in his early 40s and a 21 year old boy. They were people that I had worked with so not relations but all suicides are tragic as much suffering has gone before the act. Sending best regards Ros x
I know it isn’t a popular opinion. But suicide is a choice. We are bombarded with self autonomy concept. Yet we kill babies who never had a choice under the guise of a woman’s autonomy and tell those who wish suicide you can’t end your life.A bit hypocritical.
Now, I’m not encouraging suicide. My father committed suicide. Was it a bad choice? I feel like it was. But it was his choice.