Article: Seeking strength after loss
Seeking strength after loss
A friend of mine committed suicide yesterday. He left behind a family. In the aftermath, I can't help wondering what led to this, and if I could have done anything to prevent it. This is a fairly typical response, but it doesn't lessen the impact. I find this difficult to process because this is not the first, second or even third time someone close to me has ended their own life. I can't imagine how much harder this is for his family.
I found myself wondering what makes us strong? Conversely, what is it that gives someone cause to consider ending their life, even when there are others that need and depend on them. I find my own answers insufficient, but I resolved to set them down anyway in the hope that they might provide some meager balm for my troubled mind. Here goes.
What makes a person strong? I'm not talking about physical strength when I type this. What makes a person strong on the inside? Some of the most indomitable people I've met were physical weaklings. Disabled people who refused to view their physical setbacks as weaknesses. Women who had been severely abused, but refused to let that abuse dictate their perception of life. People who had lost all of their loved ones, yet they still maintained a positive outlook on THEIR life.
The common thread among all of them was adversity. They had all suffered significant setbacks or tragedies, but they didn't let these events stop them from becoming strong people.
There are thousands of stories of human beings overcoming overwhelming odds. How did they do this? The simple answer is determination. They refused to quit in the face of adversity. I have experienced this myself while serving in the Marine Corps. I learned that the physical limits you perceive yourself to have are largely illusory if you have sufficient dedication.
We see this all the time in the movies. The hero is hurt and looks to be finished. Yet, when someone he/she loves is threatened, the injury is overcome and they find a way to triumph. It may be a cliche, but most cliches are rooted in truth.
The bottom line is that humans need adversity to become strong inside. Only through trial and tribulation do we come to understand that we are as mentally as strong as we perceive ourselves to be. So go out there and test yourself. You don't need to be a member of the armed forces to do this. You just need to push yourself in the face of difficulty, and when you think you can't go on anymore, keep going.
Whether it's combat in an armed theater, a MMA fight or even getting up and going to work at a job you hate but need right now anyway, don't quit.
Don't quit on yourself.
Here is my own rather feeble example. When I was in boot camp, I got sick the day of a 25 mile forced march over some rather hilly terrain. The recruits all had a 60 lb. ruck on their backs, and the drill instructors set a brutal pace designed to leave most of us behind. I was tired before I began. During the last half of the march I hit a physical wall that I had never previously encountered. I began to fall behind, like some of the others.
I knew that those of us who didn't keep up with the DI would be punished after the march, but that's not what caused me to overcome my physical weakness and catch up to the first group. I thought of my father going through the same thing 25 years earlier. For whatever reason, I decided right then and there that I would be the "last man standing", physical weakness be damned. My conviction gave me the strength to catch up to the DI despite the steep incline of Mt. ************. At the end of the march, there were only two of us behind him.
I have used the strength I found that day many times since then. Sometimes for mundane things, like getting up and going to work at a job I hated. Sometimes for not so mundane things, like the time I got stung by something while snorkeling in the ocean by myself more than a mile from the shore and my heart began to race while I had trouble breathing.
Here is my message to you and myself. Never give up believing in yourself. Be the last person standing.
Total Comments 18
5/16/2013 10:47am, #2
- Join Date
- May 2012
- Tianjin, China
Sorry for your loss JNP.
My son has just turned one and I often find myself thinking about something our very own Devil posted a while ago. I'm probably paraphrasing,
"You have to be a hero to your own family."
When I'm tired or pissed off or depressed, I think of that phrase.
Going to work or being patient doesn't seem particularly heroic. But I think that, day in, day out, these are the things that make you heroic in the eyes of your loved ones, the people who rely on you.
You seem like a good guy, JNP, I'm sure you are a stalwart and reliable friend, and your friend was lucky to have you.
Take care man.
5/16/2013 11:17am, #3
Sorry for your loss. I've known a few people who've killed themselves too, and its very different than other types of death to the living who cared about them. One of them was a kung fu teacher who I taught alongside. Super talented guy. I never know what to say to the people that loved them most, but sometimes listening can be more useful anyway.
5/16/2013 11:39am, #4
- Join Date
- Nov 2007
I'm so very sorry for your loss jnp, and for his family's too. For what it's worth, my heart goes out to you.
5/16/2013 11:45am, #5
Nothing more needs to be said."To sin by silence when one should protest makes cowards out of men".
5/16/2013 12:00pm, #6
My condolences JnP.
Willpower can conquer many adversities.
It's a scary thought that there may be a very fine line between people with no hope harming themselves, or dedicating their lives to something. Sometimes a kind word can make that difference (I'd hope).
I saw a guy, Jose, 2 days ago, looking clean and sober, and we talked. Prior to that I'd seen him in the hospital freaking out drunk, and drunk around the city a bunch of times. The very last time he was on the bus, going to find somewhere to sleep in the cold, outside. We gave him my knit hat, and a scarf and some dollars.
He remembered us 2 days back, even though he was blitzed the other times. He's working now, and sober. We hugged, and parted ways quite moved.
Music was my out, during my darkest moments. I don't know where I'd be without it, and I wish more people had it, or something, as an anchor for when they're feeling adrift or swallowed up.
5/16/2013 1:26pm, #7
Suicide is always so, so painful and ultimately confusing for everyone left in the aftermath but it's true, if there's anything to be learned is that you never stop and never give in.
My second cousin tried to take his own life and (thankfully) failed, now I see him with a great job and two great kids and he's walking, talking source of inspiration to me. Despite facing oblivion, as he put it, he's now a model dude leading a good life and proof that **** can be beat.Ne Obliviscaris
5/16/2013 4:33pm, #8
- Join Date
- Jul 2011
- Brazil, northeast region
My condolences, jnp.
I'm glad you didn't put any blame on him or anything. I live in a city where it's a bit common for people to take their own lives, so I've seen some different reactions to it. Since people are very religious here, there's always someone saying "that person was weak", "he's going to hell for what he's done" etc. I can't help but think that the people who say those things were never close to someone who nurtured suicidal thoughts.
I'm also glad you wondered how you could have helped, rather than just judging what your friend did. I wish all my friends were like you.
Let us all be strong, then.
5/16/2013 7:13pm, #9
- Join Date
- May 2006
5/16/2013 10:14pm, #10
Thanks for sharing, JNP. I know exactly what you are talking about here. My dad passed away about four months ago and it has been by far the worst thing that has ever happened to me. He was a really amazing person. He was a doctor and had all of this talent. He could play piano, he read literally everything and knew something about all of it. He knew art, literature, poetry, and music. A few years back he developed a cavernous malformation, a benign tumor that caused strokes. Last year it reach a stage where it required surgery, and he was not left fully intact. He slowly died over a six month period, and the part of him he was most proud of, his brain, eroded over time. Yet when he did his physical therapy he would stand, shaking there, barely able to walk, and put one foot in front of the other. There are days now where I can't bear to face anything, but somehow, I just get up and go and do what needs to be done. I suspect it has more to do with the power to forget these things we cannot bear more than anything else. That is probably what attracts many of us to things like MA, where there it takes you fully into the moment, no matter what bullshit you are thinking. So I think what gives me strength is the ability to forget."We often joke -- and we really wish it were a joke -- that you will only encounter two basic problems with your 'self-defense' training.
1) That it doesn't work
2) That it does work"