Walking the Path: My Interfaith Journey

A Pagan seminarian's perspective on faith, theology, and facilitating interfaith dialogue.

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Processing Suicide Through a Pagan Paradigm

Posted by on in Studies Blogs

**Trigger Warning** I am going to discuss some very personal perspectives on processing grief and feelings around suicide. These are my own feelings, and should not be taken as any generalized statement on these issues. If this topic is particularly painful, please remain cognizant of your own emotional status and stop reading as you must.

Before I can even begin to process the amazing emotions and revelations of the last week as a participant of the Parliament of the World's Religions, I have to take a moment to grieve the loss of a friend.

Very early into my trip, I received the news that a friend I had served with on active duty committed suicide. Not only is this a tragic and unfortunate loss for his family, friends, the Air Force, and the world, but I realized absorbing this news within the context of an interfaith event of this magnitude highlighted some things for me.

This event had so many layers--from inter-religious dialogue to raising awareness on key world concerns and calling for collaborative action on many social justice issues. But how could I raise my eyes to the horizon when my brothers and sisters in arms are fighting such a personal battle here at home? How could I hold space for hope when all I could feel was a heavy churning pressure in my stomach and chest, and a mad spectrum of feeling ranging from deep despair to raging anger? See, I have my own battles with depression (present tense) and hormone dysfunction that contribute to what I consider to be the daily struggle of finding the will to live. There are days where getting out of bed is an accomplishment. There are times where it can be incredibly difficult to see the light. I have reached out for help, and I continue to work to find the meaning and strength to make a difference in any way I can day in and day out, which makes what I am about to say so difficult.

My first reaction to this news was anger. Anger that someone would succumb to the tantalizing siren song of oblivion. Angry that I have to fight day after day after day, and that someone I love finally lost his battle. I'm angry that we talk about mental illness and ostracize the folks who actually live with it because we don't know what to do except throw medication at someone, minimize what they're going through, or tell them to seek counseling in an effort to feel like we're doing something. I'm devastated that this is one more number to add to the hundreds of service members we have lost to suicide. 

Being Pagan doesn't make processing this loss any easier. I think about the deeper meanings of my friend's life and if he is at peace in the next phase of his journey. I think about the lives he touched and the lessons we can learn from knowing someone who suffered in this way...if there is anything we can change or do to prevent any more loss of life to this struggle. At Samhain this year I will say his name and honor his life. Tomorrow I will participate in an event called the "Buddy Check," which is a concerted effort to reach out to folks we know (not just veterans, but it started from this community) to make sure the ones we love feel connected and cared for. Maybe that's an additional takeaway from the Parliament as I sit here trying to piece together the fragments of my trip. Care for people. Reach out more often. Really connect with someone and ask the difficult questions instead of glossing over our life like a social media post. 

Farewell my friend. My brother. May you find the peace your soul so ardently seeks at last.

Denora

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Denora is currently a full-time wife, mother, and chaplain. She is an eight-year veteran of the United States Air Force, an avid writer and blogger, as well as a fire spinner. She is an active member of Circle Sanctuary's Military Ministries team and the Lady Liberty League Military Affairs Task Force. She is also the Ecumenical Program Director for Oak Spirit Sanctuary of Missouri.

Comments

  • Holli Emore
    Holli Emore Thursday, 22 October 2015

    Sending you love and peace, Denora. I struggled with thoughts of suicide for many years and actually felt envy when someone I knew actually followed through. Suicide is one of the most difficult issues ministers face, and suicide of a service member has additional layers of sorrow. Thank you for sharing your pain with us and I hope that being at PWR helped in some way.

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