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« Where the Wild Things Are [by Anne Caston] | Main | Sports Desk [by Gabrielle Calvocoressi] »

January 11, 2010


Thank you, Sister.

Thank you.

thanks for this.

Such kinds thoughts. Thank you.

Well written. Thank you so much.

echoing all the thanks. rock on.

this is very important. and great.

Yes, yes, yes. Yes. Thank you. I'm grateful for all of it.

very good post. once I read that suicidal thoughts boil down to a very simple equation - having more pain than resources to cope with the pain. what you offer is a resource and there are many - it is hard.

This was wonderful. Thanks for writing and sharing.

That was really beautiful Jennifer. Amazing post.
--Christie Ann

It's true. I am grateful you haven't killed yourself, and you're absolutely right. Because of that, I can feel that you are grateful I haven't killed myself. We are all holding each other. This is indeed part of the feeling. And sometimes you don't realize it until someone has gone. So I also want to thank dear dear Rachel for inspiring this conversation, for helping us value the connections more. To think this way is much more positive than beating myself up because I didn't reach out to her more or follow up more on the plans she and I had to connect, as if that could have helped (I felt the same way with Reetika Vazirani, the first in this awful recent trilogy of young women poets).

Thank you Jennifer, and thanks David Lehman for posting the link on FB.

I've been meaning to post about this as well, and now I will make my post part of this conversation at American Witch.

Thank you Jennifer for this moving post. We really do need to keep this conversation going.

J: I wrote you an email earlier/in response to, but before I read, your post.

I wrote the email I write Sarah every day. And the one I will now write Rachel.

If only. If only you hadn't, if only you had...

For only if you stay can it be better. Be better -- even when it isn't.

Bill Packard once wrote that the happiest apples fall by their own weight...but he also wrote (more or less, in both cases)that everything will be alright --- even if everything is not alright, it will be alright...

or as you said: "The truth is I want you to live for your sake, not for ours. But the injunction is true and real. Anyway, some part of you doesn’t want to end it all, and I’m talking to her or him, to that part of you. I’m throwing you a rope, you don’t have to explain it to the monster in you, just tell the monster it can do whatever it wants, but not that. Later we’ll get rid of the monster, for now just hang on to the rope. I know that this means a struggle from one second to the next, let alone one day at a time. Know that the rest of us know that among the faces we have met there are some right now who can barely take another minute of the pain and uncertainty. And we are in the room with you, going from one moment to the next, in whatever condition you manage to do it. Sobbing and useless is great! Sobbing and useless is a million times better than dead. A billion times. Thank you for choosing sobbing and useless over dead."


I have thought often of Sarah (she was an adviser & confidante to me at Emerson, the semester before she died), but the mixture of confusion, unreality, anger and grief are hard to write through....

Thank you.

Thank you everyone, I'm really moved by these responses. Thank you so much for them.


I think many, or some, people who commit suicide tried to push the idea away as hard as they could for as long as they could. People who kill themselves, at least some of them, think a lot about the other people in their lives and themselves grieve for these survivors. The pain they will cause them might become part of a pain that is already nearly too hard to bear.

(I keep qualifying by saying "some" people because, having come close to that point once, I thought I understood suicide, but have come to understand that there isn't just one reason or cause. In fact, sometimes it is almost a whim. The remarkable play Danny and the Deep Blue Sea touches on this.)

I am not saying you feel angry at Sarah or Rachel, Jennifer, but I am tired of people who linger in the Anger phase of coping with a death, and so publicly. It is hard, horribly hard, maybe the hardest thing, when we know someone who commits suicide, but suicides deserve our deepest compassion. For them (some of them?), life was no longer almost too hard to bear.

Perhaps suicides, wherever they are, deserve a chance to be angry at us, too, or at least to laugh, at the idea that a video game could prove a distraction. It is strangely comforting to me to be able to imagine Rachel or Sarah (neither of whom I knew well) laughing at us. I hope that if they were in insurmountable pain, they aren't any longer.

I don't know, Joy. Jennifer's post is the first that has given me any sort of resting place for my own shaken-ness. I see it as concern for the contagion factor of suicide. I feel like the contagion factor needs to be addressed in the community and this is the first time I've felt supported. I think focusing on gratitude for those still alive, for being still alive is brilliant- an approach that feels right to me. So, thank you, thank you so so much, Jennifer.

thank you for kind thoughts.. however, you notice yourself: "we shd live for our own sake" in the end.. not only for the community.. living for smn else in long run is stupid... we should all make a choice if we want to live further one, life shd always be a choice not a forced option because of fear of death etc...

i lost love of my life - i was wounded and not ready, he had enough.. he is v happy with smn else (she is nice and sweet) and after many years i know that i dont want to bear the pain any more... but i am at peace.. yes i am a poet/singer/ artist and yes i know i have friends and audience and they will be sad.. but they will! survive without me! while i, only i and no one else, carries the pain of losing the only person i waited for.. every second and every day... and nothing can stop it, it is not depression you can cure (from outside i am joyful and strong) it is memory and love that lasts even though i wish i cd hate him and i tried for many years...

if you are a pianist and they cut your hand off and force you to play with one hand only and you know! you only! how lovely the other lost hand soundd, wdnt it be better to go in peace? than play badly till rest of times with one only hand? yet people keep forcing you to this life of pain, with one hand and sad melodies of one hand...

isnt it beter to live short but happy than live long , for the sake of living, yet in pain?

i know the first option is much better and i am peaceful and ready to do it..

i want one last dream where i dont have to wake up anymore to reality of losing all that i ever wanted in my life .. and no, i wont love that much again, and wont forget.. if you think i cd, you know nothing of love..

and this pain noone can carry or help with.. i , myself only, have to decide whether i want to carry it, and dspite society needing it (society cant! help or take my pain away ) or whether i chose to stop it, with peace.. just like cancer sufferers chose euthanasia and assisted suicide..,

once you lose all that is important to you, and you suffer so much, pls write this article again and you ll see that some people are better off to go.. and sometimes death , in peace, with smile, with knowledge that we fought but we lost and there is no hope, sometimes death is beter than life at all cost..

take care


This is a brilliant as well as beautiful post, Jennifer. I think we're all indebted to you for the rhetorical strategies and gambits you propose. It may be that a person on the verge of suicide is beyond reasoning, though that's debatable. We all talk to ourselves all the time, and compiling a list of reasons for staying alive is a smart thing to do. (Doesn't Woody Allen, in one of his movies, "Manhattan" perhaps, propose a list of 10 things worth living for?)Do suicides want to be talked out of doing what they do? I don't know the answer to that. As you imply it is we the survivors who need to remind ourselves that taking your own life is as bad an idea as murder. Hamlet calls it "self-slaughter." Like Andrea, I believe that it is a contagion, an epidemic, and I am thinking not only of Rachel, Sarah, and Reetika but of Deborah Digges and Tom Disch and Lucy Grealy and Liam Rector and the painter Darragh Park: so many, "I had not thought death had undone so many." My favorite passage in the piece begins with this clause: "Later we’ll get rid of the monster."

I read Jennifer's post as a wish and what I most admire about it is its direct address to the person considering suicide. In the aftermath of each such death, we talk to each other, about the deceased and our own grief and the welter of feelings, and it's already to late. If suicide is sometimes carried out on a whim, then the impulse will pass, if we can find the right way to make someone wait. For some reason, this poem by Kim Addonizio comes to mind:

Happiness after Grief

feels like such a betrayal: the hurt not denied, not pushed away, but gone entirely for that moment you can't help feeling good in, a moment of sudden, irrational joy over nothing of consequence, really, which makes it all somehow seem even worse. Shouldn't happiness be the result of some grand event, something adequate to counter that aching, gaping chasm that opened when . . . But, no: it's merely this: there goes our little neighbor, running barefoot, no pants, fox stole wrapped around her shoulders.
-- Kim Addonizio

"I have found that thinking about this can feel like a multitude of invisible arms linking to support me."

I think this realization is a critical one, and you might write more about it, Jennifer. Despair is what what we have in common (having it, in some sense, is what makes us homo sapiens) instead of being something that I may have but practically nobody else does (or at least, will admit to). Writing about suicide in this way that makes it about us, instead about one person, communicates this idea. I am reminded of a piece in the LA Times from a few years ago that talks similarly about the "curative powers" of speaking this truth,

Hi. People have said such great things here, I just want to say.

Joy, yeah I might have left the video games line out, I did consider it. I left it in because for me right now it's an actual detail. I work a lot, too much, and lately it's become clear to me that it is bad for me and for the work, for me to work so much, but I still feel a bit terrible when I'm not working, so finding a way to play bejeweled on facebook (finding a way to convince myself to do it) has been an interesting and helpful thing. i know many people probly see video games as something they've already sunk too much time in, but the poetry people who have killed themselves in the last few years and the one's reading this blog are probably weird like me -- overachievers who suffer in the knowledge that achievement is a bit of a false idol, given that we all die, so that finding a way to enjoy whatever moment you are stuck in is probably a good idea. i guess i partly like bejeweled because I see my fb friends on the leaderboard in changing positions and it feels like the game is a little communal.

Thanks Stacey for the KA poem, I'd have put it in the Happiness Myth if I'd known about it. I talk about a bunch of poems and how they describe that very type of happiness -- it's amazing to see how Kim's poem would fit right in there. beautiful.

David thanks for all those thoughts. Yeah, I think of Woody Allen on that couch too, holding up the little microphone talking about Cezanne's apples and oranges, and Tracy's face. There again: it's art and each other that will save us, ay?

AS -- Wow what an interesting piece of writing in the LA Times, thank you for showing me that. That's wild, how physical the experience was for the therapist. Thanks also for the encouragement to do more work in this direction.

this is why the internet exists. brilliant.

When the topic of suicide has come up with our children we have always stressed the fact that:
"Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem." An understanding of impermanence is essential. Nothing ever stays the same. Time...give yourself time.

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I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman


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