What to say and what not to say about suicide?

Dear all friends, followers and loving fans,

I have been widely absent from all sorts of social media presence lately. I haven’t posted except for the occasional signs that I am alive and paying attention to the world, mainly in private settings.

On the occasion of the tragic death of celebrities to suicide, I feel bombarded once again by a renewed interest from those who received the news with shock and dismay and struggle to understand the underlying cause of such horrible way to die.

Among what I can read, there are more triggering messages about mental health, responsibility to others when you are in the public eye than I can take without adding my own voice to the noise around suicide.

I can’t take anyone’s blame on a deceased person for having left the world as if such departure was their conscious will. I can’t listen to angry messages without receiving a hurtful blow as if the anger was a personal attack, not only on myself but also on the one who expresses an angry message: I can feel the utmost fear and pain that the news inflicted on them and if anger is the only way to express such pain, I resent that it takes the form of a hurtful attack on anyone.

There are healthy ways to process anger and it should always be in the form of action.

I certainly feel angry myself and this may be the very reason why I am writing this and coming out of my silent place on social media on this occasion.

Most of you know that I have been open about my struggles and life circumstances.

I have no suicidal ideation and I know that I am lucky that it has never happened to me. I would not be here to share those words with you if I had not been lucky when I “lost” it. I have a very clear recollection of the chains of events – on several separate occasions – that protected me. Each of those occasions, I took as a lesson and a guide on how to keep protecting the life I have been given, the gifts I have been granted, and the responsibility I have agreed to take upon myself to continue growing and fulfilling my mission on earth… until it is the end of it, and it is not my human decision.

Words are powerful: they can hurt or they can heal.

I cringe and ache when I read messages that convey misunderstanding, judgments and sometimes extremely toxic condemnations that those who silently suffer may receive as an additional confirmation that they should not disclose anything about themselves because it is at best useless and at worst dangerous.

Each of us has a dark area of unknown places: there is a window that can be accessed, and a window that can’t. Personal growth should aim at making the inaccessible window the smallest possible so that it is not filling with demons or unresolved pains and conflicts that threaten to spill poison or despair into our lives.

There are many different paths to such growth. Not one way fits all. It is the same with all who succumb to the darkness. Not all of them have suffered for the same cause nor would have been helped the same way, or helping themselves in the same fashion as the other, or as myself.

What responsibility?

Today, the only message I want to convey about responsibility is that we are each of us individually responsible for what we put outside of ourselves, what we publish as well as what we say to others, or about others. It is so important to avoid blame and condemnation. It is so necessary to make sure that what we decide to share is coming from a place of love and not a place of fear.

When we harbor anger at a news that shocked us, we can recognize the anger without using it to distance ourselves from what has happened. Suicide is not contagious but the words that are spoken around the suicide of a well-known victim of suicide have the unfortunate power to kill others as well.

I would dream of a world where each of us watches their words carefully so that they can bring light and love all the time. It has been a dream for a long time and if I do not contribute to my own dream, I have failed to take action that will ease the feelings of pain and anger that I may be experiencing when something tragic happens to my fellow human.

What to do

I do not have a recipe to give you about what to say or what not to say. I have immense respect and trust that you can measure your words by yourself. As for action, there are great organizations who dedicate multiple resources and countless ways to help make this world a kinder and safer place for all. Let us join them in their efforts and vow to repair the world and grow our hearts bigger with love for all.

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Giving Thanks

For our fragile planet earth,
its times and tides,
its sunsets and seasons,
its vitality and vegetables;

For the joy of human life,
its wonders and surprises,
its hopes and achievements;

For human community,
our common past and future hopes,
our oneness transcending all separation,
our capacity to work for peace and justice in the midst of hostility and oppression;

For high hopes and noble causes,
for faith without fanaticism,
for an understanding of views not shared;

For all who have labored and suffered for a fairer world,
who have lived so that others might live in dignity and freedom:
We pray that we may live, not by our fears, but by our hopes.
Modim Anachnu Lach—For all this and so much more, we give thanks.

From the Mishkan Tefilah – the Jewish Reform Prayer Book

 

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Three Brothers

Tombe_Mayer_Alger-min

 

Every year, on Veterans Day, I am reminded of the WWI fallen from my own family.

This is because, in France, the day is dedicated to celebrating the end of WWI with the signature of the armistice that day.

The picture on this post shows a tombstone in Algiers Jewish Cemetary, the only picture I have of a place I never could visit.
My mother was born there. The tomb is the family’s plot.

These are her mother’s brothers who died during the war ~ and a fourth brother also died in WWII.

My mother’s grandfather ~ the father of these brothers if you follow ~ had been a Colonel in the French Army, at the same time as the famous Captain Dreyfus.

I told a little bit in this post, too.

Jews were very patriotic always, despite antisemitism. It was an honor to send his own sons to serve the country. They paid the ultimate price of this patriotism in what has been dubbed later the worst terrible war and a “butchery”, which it was.

War is ugly.

There is no pretty war.

Veterans who are lucky to come back from wars may have come unarmed in their bodies but their soul is scarred. I cannot even fathom how they can deal with their feelings after they endured and experienced what they did.

We owe them more than just remembering to thank them for their service with gratitude. We do. But we also owe them care and employment and mental health care as a country, not as a charity.

When I remember my own great-uncles whom I never got a chance to meet and who never got a chance to give birth to sons or daughters who would talk about their stories, I also remember their mother, Rachel, my great-grandmother, and Cecile, my mother’s mother who had been the one to share with me about her beloved brothers.

I remember most what was a painful sadness lingering year after year, so strong that I was able to carry it over with me.

I remember the picture of Rachel wearing the signs of her bereavement, that she would never lose until her own death. I can’t fathom the kind of strength you need to muster once you have buried your own sons, one after the other.

My grandmother gave birth to my uncle a few days after her brother was killed, two days before the armistice was signed Nov 11, 1918.

 

My uncle was named after the young fallen soldier.

 
 

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The Month of Gratitude

November is #noticeandsharethegood Month!
I have two sons.
The older – is 22. The younger is 20.
The older is severely autistic. He has no conversational language.
At times he goes above his brother’s head with his own bent head, in a loving gesture of awe, in his own fashion to express tenderness.
That the younger young man never pushes him back nor expresses annoyance is beautiful. Simply beautiful.
I cannot explain how grateful I am for the tender relationship between those two…

Give thanks

There is a tradition in Judaism that we give thanks as soon as we open our eyes when we wake up in the morning.

We are given many opportunities to give thanks from that moment on during the day, and if we can we are urged to do it at least a hundred times each day.

Looking around and finding those opportunities is an exercise in mental health, with more benefits than anti-depressants.

When darkness is growing

With November, in the Northern hemisphere, trees are becoming bare.

Daylight is decreasing.

Soon we feel like we don’t see the sun at all.

It is time to vote in the United States.

A year ago, it did not end well for all those who had not seen it come. Authoritarianism is casting such an ominous shadow that it feels difficult to give thanks for what is happening in the world.

To look for the beauty and the goodness.

To find the helpers.

To keep hope and keep the battle and keep smiling.

Keep voicing your opinions

We can disagree on so many things and still have a civil discussion.

There are so many ways to look at everything.

Just be patient and see the tenderness in a gesture that may be annoying.

Like my son does over and over out of his own love for his brother.

Always see the good in everything may bring surprises. The light will come back.

In the meantime, let us all prepare for the beautiful holiday of Thanksgiving. What will you bring to the table? Let me know!

 

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Survival in A Tough Time

Coffee Shop Rabbi (a.k.a. Rabbi Ruth Adar) expressed feelings and ideas I share in this post I re-post on my own blog today.

I wish I had written what she wrote: her words mirror those that struggled to form in my own overwhelmed mind.

When the only thought that comes to mind is “disaster”, I want to stay strong and helpful. I want to use my personal powers of being alive and able.

Doing one good deed at a time.

Even if that one deed is to continue publishing one blog at a time.

Coffee Shop Rabbi

Image: Sonoma, CA, in better times. (jessebridgewater/pixabay)

Hurricanes. Wildfires.

A little over a week ago we said the Unetaneh Tokef prayer, “Who by water and who by fire,” expressing the fact that we simply do not know what the future will bring each person. And since then, we have seen so many bad things: the aftermath of hurricane and floods in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico, and the fires in the West, especially in Northern California this week.

The news from Washington is deeply upsetting to many of us. Who would have thought we’d see a President of the United States have a name-calling match on Twitter with one of the leaders of his own party? Who would have thought we’d see a name-calling game of nuclear chicken play out on Twitter between heads of state?

I have not posted for a week. Some of that was a…

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On this day, April 19, 1943

Ruins of the Warsaw Ghetto
http://www.yadvashem.org/yv/en/exhibitions/warsaw_ghetto_testimonies/ruins.asp

In 1943 this day Waffen SS attacks Jewish resistance in the Warsaw ghetto.

My family lived in France and I learned the history of the Warsaw Ghetto first hand from survivors I met as an adult. None of them are alive anymore, but they passed their memories to me, and for me to remember what happened and how it happened.

Why it happened is another question that I still am asking.

Sometimes, it feels it happened because the younger generations forget or don’t care about what is outside of their immediate preoccupations.

These images are in black and white.

Don’t they look alike images we see every day still? somewhere in the world?

Why should we not remember lest we repeat history?

We, Jews, may be annoying you with our constant remembrance of the Holocaust: denying that it happened is not only painful and offensive, but it is also criminal because it allows the world to become cruel, cynical and self-destroying.

Stories of the resistance are beautiful and inspiring. They are poignant and useful.

Remember. Share. Resist. Grow. Love.

For those who know me 


This 8th of April
For those who know me from there, and for those who know me from here.
For those who share my roots, and for those who love to learn about them.
For those who follow me for my stories, and for those who follow me because they share their course.
Here’s to you on this 8th of April, for now, and forever.
Places are in our hearts even when they can’t be seen anymore.
Thoughts are prayers when they can be said aloud.
Images are memories that can be shared and I am grateful for such a gift of passing along from generation to generation.