|You are not alone.|
I thought I was saying the right things. I really believed that she had, that we all have, inner resources we can draw upon in times of hardship. I was devastated to learn that I was wrong.
My mistake was in believing - and telling her - that she had inner resources to draw on.
It is dangerously wrong-headed thinking.
Since that wake-up call, I have thought twice about other oft-uttered assurances and admonitions:
You'll be fine.And my personal favourite:
It'll all be better in the morning.
Some day you'll look back on this, and it'll all be like a bad dream.
It could be worse.
Get over it already.
God will never give you more than you can handle.[Oooh, I grit my teeth when I hear or read that one!]
I think of survivors who have come through incredible inner pain:
- Retired Lieutenant-General Romeo Dallaire, who entered his personal nightmare via Rwanda and who said, "It's only that [that he was too drunk to complete his suicide attempts] and people checking up on me that prevented me from killing myself";
- Kay Redfield Jamison, who has seen suicidal thinking from the inside, and has studied it as a psychologist;
- Linda Sexton, whose mother, poet Anne Sexton, committed suicide and who inherited that legacy; or
- Heather Armstrong who writes the pants-pissingly funny blog Dooce and who has also shared her heartbreaking struggle with depression. (Her post, "Surrender," may be the bravest, most honest thing I've ever read.)
"Suicidal thinking happens when pain exceeds resources for coping with pain."The most important thing we can do is ensure that we add to those resources, not leave the person feeling like a failure because he or she feels overwhelmed.
If I were talking to that woman today, I would instead say, "You don't have to be strong. You are not alone. Let me be here for you." And I would add, though you may not, "Let God be here for you."