His natural, thin-lipped, wide-mouth grin carried so much sunshiny warmth I felt like I had just been placed center stage; in the spotlight. His shoulders were broad, yet slender and tilted forward in a slight hunch. The charcoal gray T-shirt that hung loose on his frame was light and the fabric seemed sheer and soft. No graphics littered the front; just a weathered and worn look that gave the shirt a little edge; making it seem casual and cool at the same time. Justin’s* demeanor and magnetic charm drew me in and made me feel like an old friend at once.
And almost as instantly, my body began to feel as if every ounce of life had been drained from it. There wasn’t any remnant of will to live left in any corner of my being. My arms became leaden weights, and I couldn’t muster the strength to lift them. My legs felt weak and unable to sustain an upright posture. The core of my being felt as hollow as a drum. My voice became suppressed, caught in my throat. It felt useless and strangled. My heart rate began to slow and my vision seemed to turn my perspective bleak like new contact lenses were covering my eyes unable to be removed. I knew Justin couldn’t go on for one more minute. The uselessness of life and the anguish in his heart turned into a roaring wave that was capsizing his life beneath it. His first words were, “I’m sorry. I just didn’t have anything left. I couldn’t stay.”
That Justin had chosen to leave this earth shattered my heart into slivers so small I was going to need a microscope to gather them all back up. Unfortunately, I am not sure all of the shards will ever be recovered. Even more, regrettably, this isn’t the first time I have felt this way. It is too hard to fathom how this light could go out; leave earth and leave the dark, vast blackhole of longing in its place. There will never be a day that someone Justin knew won’t look up and hope to see his light shining here with them. Never. It will forever be missed. A light extinguished too soon.
So many sweet souls have visited me, and their humor, charm, easy-breezy souls feel like a long, loving embrace. And it always takes my breath away that their lives were ended on their terms or by bad choices that left them vulnerable to leaving this world early.
Suicides are impossible. How do you ever reconcile a life taken so swiftly? So forcefully? With forethought? What do you do when the light goes out?
It’s one of those deaths that leave so many what-ifs in its wake. It feels so preventable. It feels so upside down; the sheer force of trying to turn back time to prevent it leaves you breathless and dizzy. I am not saying other deaths don’t feel this way; it is just one of the types that tears a whole in my being and I feel like a tattered flag that will never fly again. After holding court with these souls, I am so devastated by the wake of grief that is felt here on earth for the loss of these souls; it takes days sometimes months for me to shake off the chill it leaves in my body. This also happens with souls that have been murdered, taken too soon due to cancer, and so many others. This particular cause of death is just raw right now, because of a session earlier this week.
There are roughly 129 suicides a day and it is the second leading cause of death in kids ages 15 to 19 according to the Association for Suicide Prevention.* It just seems so startling to think that the rate keeps increasing and we just aren’t entirely sure why. And so many lives are affected by this it is staggering.
After years of speaking to souls like Justin’s who chose to cross over, I still have no decent comforting words. Souls lost to suicide rip every last piece of hope from my heart because all I want to know is why? How does the God I believe in allow this? God, I adore you, but if you have a plan here, I am pretty positive I can’t understand it. It is so unfathomable, and nothing fills the hole or the guilt quite effectively. I have such a strong urge to try and rectify it, and that means keeping the soul here, helping them find peace here.
Maybe it stings so severely because this could have been me. My life has not been immune to suicidal thoughts. It isn’t this way now, but as a teen I remember how my life hung by a thread most days.
Each soul that I have encountered that has played a part in their demise is at peace in heaven. They are in a place where their pain is quiet, they feel loved, welcomed, they have a sense of home in a way that was hard for them to grasp here on earth. And while that floods me with gratefulness it also drips with misfortune because they leave so much love behind here. So many people that wanted them to feel peace and comfort here on earth.
Justin felt no different. The peace that flooded through his being was immeasurable on a human scale. He radiated pure joy.
I know that some feel that souls that commit suicide are doomed to eternal damnation.
But these souls sure don’t feel that way to me. They relay through thoughts, emotions and words that God loves them. Forgives them. That they do all the things souls in heaven tell me they do — reunite with loved ones, visit places all over the world, help other souls, visit loved ones on earth, find everlasting peace.
Sometimes they speak of the ability to take classes on how to better handle addiction, pain, depression so that if they do reincarnate, their souls are free of having to repeat that particular lesson over again. They send signs of hope to family here on earth and are well-adjusted to their fate. They want forgiveness from those they love here on earth. They feel immense remorse for the pain they caused, but few believe that there was an alternative to what happened to them. They use the word inevitable. These souls also share that they feel that there was a call for them to return to heaven; that God was somehow also responsible for their assent heavenward.
But all of these messages time and again still leave my heart feeling barren, vacant, devoid of solace. There is an emptiness that crawls up my spine and into my mind and makes my skin crawl with a pain I can’t entirely escape. Silent tears escape my body for days as it works to release this aching sorrow.
The people here on earth who are suffering the grief of suicide are left with questions, guilt, doubt, and broken hope. Why? How do we move forward and find meaning? I think the answer is going to be unique to each griever. It will match the impact of the physical life lost. It will only be understood by that mourning heart.
Efforts to thwart suicide are valid. Lives can be saved. Why it doesn’t always work; I guess I will have to have blind faith. God knows what He is doing. Honestly, though, it still isn’t enough. My faith fails to cover the bill sometimes. Sorry, God. I love you, I do. I believe in you. I just can’t always understand, and this gift to communicate with spirits doesn’t seem to give me a more in-depth insight.
The only thing that is helping me pull myself together tonight is the slight possibility that the messages I am able to translate from their loved ones help my clients. I guess, maybe just maybe, God uses people like me to aid in the healing process. To help loved ones know that there is a heaven, and that love connects us. It cannot be destroyed or cut short. Not all is lost.
Maybe people like me help others understand or have faith that their loved ones are not just dust, but are also alive; risen.
Perhaps it is a comfort to know that their loved ones have found a way to thrive in a place that surrounds us so they can continue to lift, guide and nourish us until we all meet again.
Maybe it is helpful to know that our God is a forgiving God, not a vengeful, punishing God. Our God is a nurturing parent who makes sure we understand and face the consequences of our own actions, but doesn’t kick us out on the street. Doesn’t leave us to fend for ourselves independently, but is always guiding us to the best version of ourselves. He is always guiding us and welcoming us home. And there is never an end to His love.
It still isn’t enough to help alleviate the loss of suicide, but maybe something is better than nothing. The cracks in my heart will remain. I am not sure Justin’s bright smile will ever fade from my memory. His soul shines a radiant light on all it touches even if it is seemingly gone from here; it still exists in heaven.
Most importantly, if you feel like you need help, please get it.
Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. To learn more about how you can help visit https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ or https://afsp.org/.
*The name Justin has been changed to protect his identity and the identity of my clients.
*Data for these statistics comes from the article: 9 Things All Parents Should Know About Teens and Suicide: Talking about it can be hard, but it’s so important. By Anna Borges.
4 thoughts on “When the Light Goes Out”
Michelle, your thoughts expressed here so eloquently, hit a chord with me…a few weeks ago a friend’s husband and their children’s father took his life. So sudden and such a shock. I think of that family daily, and wonder…what could have prompted that fatal action? Was there any way it could have been prevented? He was a good man; the last man I would have expected to take this final, irreversible action. I’ll probably never know. But I’ll never stop mourning the fact that this good and kind person is lost to us forever. It hurts that he hurt so badly he couldn’t reach out to a friend or his family for help. I hope to experience his great hugs – the kind that just swallow you right up – once I’ve crossed over to that other side.
Oh Gale, I am so sorry and so sad for this family. I hope that dialogue creates the ability to shed the shame and stigma and moving forward people will feel they can reach out. Thank you so much for reading a long and for taking the time to share your connection to this piece. Love to you always.
Both of my husbands parents took their own lives. The pain it has caused him breaks my heart and at the same time I worry about my husband. They say depression is partly inherited and that worries me. I can only pray that he never sees that as a solution and that he would choose to come to me for help if he ever feels that hopelessness! The fact that theses souls find the acceptance and love on the other side that they so desperately longed for on earth does bring a bit of peace to myself and my husband. Thank you for your beautiful insight into this dark reality.
That makes me so very sad, Rene. I adore you both so much. Thank you for saying that these words help in some way. It is a dark reality and for those of us here, so difficult to live with. Bless you and your husband.