Suicide, God and Comments on the Internet

A few months ago, someone that I admire wrote a post about Brittany Maynard, the woman who had moved to a new state with her family so that she could die with compassion. She was terminally ill with brain cancer and her health was deteriorating and she wanted to live the end of her life with dignity and have control over a disease that had taken control of her life.

This person that I admire is openly religious and often posts about his faith. He wrote a post about this woman, asking "what if Brittany choosing to die was not in God's plan" and went on to wonder whether God had great things planned for this woman that she would miss out on because she was choosing to end her own life. I read the post and realized that he and I shared a very different view on Brittany's decision, but then I made the mistake of reading the comments.

People were ripping the woman apart. Some said she should burn in hell for choosing to end her own life. Harsh opinions of suicide ensued. Others criticized her immensely for her "selfish" decision. Comments on the Internet can be a really horrific thing, but I couldn't believe the lack of compassion that these people were showing this woman who had made such a tough decision and shared it publicly. And while Brittany's situation is very different than anything I've experienced in my lifetime, with their criticism of her choice and suicide in general, I felt like they were also attacking my mom.

Since my mom's death in 1998, I've had some very difficult conversations / debates / arguments with people about suicide. It's a heated subject, and I've had my fair share of people express their opinions about it to me.

About how selfish it is.
How awful it is for the people who need to "clean it up".
Shouldn't I be angry at my mom?
And now reading the opinions of these people who believed that those who commit suicide should burn in hell.

Just, wow.

In 17 years I've certainly wondered what had to be happening in my mom's head in order for her to end her life. She had 2 children, family and friends who loved her immensely and she left that behind. I've felt sad for the time I lost with her and all the things she'll never be a part of in my life. It hurts to think about the time we've missed out on together and the moments in my life that she will never experience. The important people in my life that she'll never get to meet. And while suicide is a selfish act, I recognize that those who commit suicide really see no other way to keep living. It's not a feeling that I have personally experienced, but I have felt the bleakness that comes with depression and can only imagine that suicide is a further extension of that. And in Brittany's case, it was a choice to die with dignity. Not an easy one, but a decision that she and her family decided was the right one for her.

I can't imagine condemning anyone to "burn in hell", especially not someone who was hurting immensely and going through their own version of hell; A person who was experiencing a lot of pain and sadness, who through their own actions would leave family and loved ones and a whole life behind. I'm not a religious person, but I understand that the bible says to "love thy neighbour", right?

And like I felt the day I read those comments, I feel the need to write this and defend my mom, because she isn't here to do it herself.

Because in my experience, when people get upset about suicide or the idea of suicide, they forget that there was a person attached to the concept. They dismiss the people that were left behind. They get caught up in being against the idea and view it as a concept that they are against. When really, there's so much more to it than that.

Each year I host this Life is Sweet series for people to share their stories and to remind others of the humanity behind the ideas of mental health, mental illness, suicide and loss. It's easy to get caught up in a concept, but let's remember that there are people behind them.

Seventeen years ago, my beautiful mother Debbie chose to end her life by committing suicide. I can't claim to understand exactly why, but I know that she dealt with a lot of pain and sadness in her lifetime.

I'm not angry at her.

I don't feel resentful of her "selfish" act.

I feel sad for all that we both missed out on.

And I miss her every day.


3 comments:

Beth said...

Oh goodness, I'm so so sorry you had to see all that, Ashley. Because it just sucks. It sucks to read the thoughts of people who are passing judgement behind a screen in a situation they personally know nothing about, driven largely by fear. Was your mother selfish? No. Its selfish to call someone selfish when they literally prefer death over their horizon.

Here's the facts:

-Nobody knows exactly what, if anything, happens after we die.

-It's impossible to truly know what it's like to be in a situation without first-person experience.

-Your mother was a beautiful person who made this world a little better than it was, and you are living proof of that.

Thank you for doing this series again, and I know it must be hard to do. Keep smiling and singing and dancing. <3

Shilo said...

You are way more evolved then me about it all. My mom committed suicide when i was 6 years old and left me all alone in this world with people who were supposed to love me but instead were horrible to me. I have gone through the stages of missing her so badly, i thought I'd die too, to thinking maybe she really wasn't dead, to sadness and then a black angry hatred in my teenage years until it kind of cooled to resentment. I had an acquaintance take her side in an argument once speaking about how much pain she must have been in and i almost punched her. She left me behind to fend for myself while she cured her own pain. I won't get into the dark thoughts but i wish i had a more enlightened view of her actions. Last spring, my good friend and first love took his own life. The sadness, grief, anger and guilt i have felt over the last few months have been immense. He was a huge part of my life and now he's gone. He was beautiful inside and out. The thought that he might not have known how loved he was breaks my heart so completely. I hate suicide. If i can get one thought across to anyone considering this, it would be: Suicide destroys those left behind and forever changes the course of their lives. No one is "better off without you". Ask for help from someone who can help you. Obviously, this doesn't apply to palliative care euthanasia. I'm really glad you aren't mad at your mom. I can't stand to think of mine even 28 years later. Still too painful.

Sol said...

"When I come across a pit of excrement I usually try to step around it, but no, by all means, go wading into the comments section. Have fun."