When the Pain of Grief Turns to Thoughts of Suicide

I have been experiencing an increase of discussion about suicide in many groups, not just the widowed community - even a group that I am in that has nothing to do with grief has several people struggling with accepting the world they find themselves in.

I wrote this because I have had so many conversations of late around the topic and my heart breaks but I want to impart more than sympathy, I want to impart life.

Take what you like and leave the rest, comments are also welcome.

We all suffer.

The suffering in grief is uniquely intense. Recently I have spoken with many widows over their desire to end their pain via suicide. Many experience extreme suffering, and for some the suffering seems unbearable. They assume that the other side is painless and easy.

Since we all have to die in the end, if life becomes unbearable, then why prolong the agony?

Perhaps we imagine that we will be reunited with our loved one(s)?

I turn to the Buddhist tradition to see what it says about suicide...

The main stance of Buddhism is that the only path to peace is by being mindfully present. We can only do this through acceptance.

Buddhists believe that if we engage in mental states based in craving, hatred and delusion will give rise to actions that lead to consequences of increased suffering and decreased happiness.

These mental states and the actions arising from them are termed ‘unskilful’, in that they do not help us or anyone around us - including our children.

Contrarily, mental states that are based in acceptance, love and wisdom will give rise to actions that lead to a decrease in suffering, and an increase in happiness. These are termed ‘skilful’ in that they help everyone.

In other words, when we are grasping relentlessly for something that cannot be fulfilled and we refuse to accept the real and broken world we live in... when we believe that we are at fault for things that are not reasonably within our control... when we hate ourselves and engage in sloppy thinking and expect life to be happy... we are not using skills that will be productive and helpful and life-giving.

When we are able to let go and accept the order of things, that people die as a course of life, even untimely and violently at times... when we bring in love for ourselves and others including anyone that we might consider has wronged us... when we allow reality to have room and we know that everything is about change and impermanence... then we are life-giving and light-bearing in our circumstances.

Buddhists join many traditions that believe that the other side of suicide may not hold the relief from pain that a suicidal person expects...

Here are some quotes:

“Some people commit suicide; they seem to think that there is suffering simply because there is the human life, and that by cutting off the life there will be nothing…

But, according to the Buddhist viewpoint, that’s not the case; your consciousness will continue.

Even if you take your own life, this life, you will have to take another body that again will be the basis of suffering.

If you really want to get rid of all your suffering, all the difficulties you experience in your life, you have to get rid of the fundamental cause (greed, hatred and delusion) that gives rise to the aggregates that are the basis of all suffering.

Killing yourself isn’t going to solve your problems.”

-His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

“According to the Buddhist teaching of cause and effect, since one does not realise the truth of all phenomena, or does not practise to be liberated from life and death, suicide is pointless.

When one’s karmic retribution is not exhausted, death by suicide only leads to another cycle of rebirth.

This is why Buddhists do not support suicide; and instead, encourage constructive living, using this life to diligently practise good, thus changing the present and the future for the better.”

-Chan Master Sheng Yen

“If we do not use this precious body to help ourselves, till when shall we wait to save ourselves?”

- Buddhist Saying