Redemption Song

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It's an aching that will not end, the sensation of being trapped in pain, with no one limb, no muscle, not even a follicle a victim can point to and say, "Here; This is where it hurts."

It's a body betrayed and a mind that plays tricks inadequate to fit explanation to reality. It's a condition that begs for an ending. It is a journey that too often leads to suicide.

I said it. Suicide.

A little over a year ago we lost a dear friend to suicide. Senseless said some. Selfish said others. Despair shook secrets and old sorrows loose from their moorings. Our friend's widow, newly inducted among the survivors, exhorted a sea of mourners to name this demon, confront it. Give it no harbor.

Yet the presence of suicide lingers in many lives. I heard it in the hushed tones of concerned friends when a neighbor, a Korean War veteran, died violently. Later, a friend's mother was lost to a leap. And then there were those like my mother who tried to forge a compromise but succumbed nevertheless: using tobacco, overeating -- pick your poison.

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We who survive the self-inflicted death of people near to us do shoulder a burden. In a sense we are chosen by the departed to tell their story. I don't mean stories drenched in shock or contempt. Nor do I mean the stories told the way the deceased would, because those stories make no sense.

Instead I believe the departed beg us to think a new thought. They spoke the only language they knew how, imparting through death a bit of the bane that consumed them. Maybe we could honor the only hope available from their demise -- that someone, someday, could figure out what this thing really was that killed them.

Suicide is not the inevitable consequence of depressive episodes or a life gone awry. It results from a process that attacks the will to live. We are left behind to name it, not confuse it with an outcome, but to recognize its source, then act, with courage.

With a Perspective, this is Rose Lawrence.

Rose Lawrence is a clinical and cultural psychologist in Santa Rosa.