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  • In our culture, suicide is considered something weak, crazy people do. Suicide attempts are typically trivialized or dismissed as foolish attempts at attention getting. If you bring up the subject of suicide in any other context, people think there is something wrong with you. But it needs to be brought up. If we were freer in talking about the darker side of our experiences we could better resolve the inevitable suffering and turmoil we feel when we experience loss and sadness.

    This Memorial Day, Joe Biden spoke to the families of those who had lost their lives in the service of our country. He spoke of the pain he felt when he lost his wife and daughter in 1972. He eloquently described the feeling in his chest when he heard of his loss. “That black hole you feel in your chest like you're being sucked back into it.” Then he said “For the first time in my life I understood how someone could consciously decide to commit suicide. Not because they were deranged, not because they were nuts, (but) because they'd been to the top of the mountain and they just knew in their heart they'd never get there again… that there was never gonna get... never gonna be that way ever again.”

    When I heard that, it was like something punched me in my gut. Twenty years ago I myself attempted suicide. And that was exactly the thought that took me to a place of just wanting to stop the crushing pain in my chest. At that agonizing moment, divorce had taken everything that had any meaning for me away. At that moment it had taken from me my own image of who I was. And I could not see anything beyond that moment that could make it seem worth sticking around.

    The room full of people listening to Mr. Biden’s speech got to hear something really unusual that day. Rather than at-arms-length rhetoric about patriotism and the value of their sacrifice they heard someone talk about the reality of their loss, and I hope maybe they felt a little less alone because someone took the chance to show they understood. And I'm glad he made the comment about suicide, because I'm sure more than a few of them had those same thoughts when they heard of their loss.
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