Suicide and Paganism

I listen to a lot of music. I listen to it when I write, draw, and do my dishes. Minus the dishes, that takes up a lot of my time. To put it into perspective, I write usually about 3-4 hours a day, not including  the drawing or general editing.

So what’s this got to do with anything? Yesterday while scrolling through Youtube, I fell across Linkin Park’s music again.

Oof. I bawled like a baby. Linkin Park really helped me when I was younger, and the fact that Chester chose suicide – it’s just rough. What especially struck me was a comment on a Youtube video that echoed my feelings, saying how they felt, yet they added in that it was maybe too late for anyone to care about their comment? And this brought me to thinking about paganism, suicide, and the time it takes to grieve.

First off, I’d like to mention that grieving can be a long process. I don’t feel there is ever a time where it’s ‘improper’ to feel acutely the loss of someone. For people with mental health issues, grieving can be… complicated. Personally, I barely grieve -> yet remain very sensitive about it for a long time. I feel like Ijust don’t grieve like normal people do, and that’s okay. It confuses people and I chock it up to my beliefs, but the raw fact is that I really don’t grieve like they do. I mourn suffering, not the departure. I just don’t feel like death is a terrible thing. Certainly, I will miss the person/being. But do I grieve outright? No. Yet I do miss them and acknowledge their absence.

All that to say, that for people with mental health issues grieving can be extra complex. We are stuck between expressing ourselves honestly and behaving in a socially acceptable way. We are held up to a ‘normal’ timeline and told that that is how it is ‘supposed’ to be. Well, that’s just not how it always is, is it? For some of us, we just can’t allow ourselves to feel too deeply or we fall into a black hole. For others, we simply don’t … feel? Everyone’s experiences of grief is different, but especially among those with mental illness, the expression of grief can be extremely varied.

That brings me to my next point. Paganism and suicide. Unless my head has been under a blanket lately, I haven’t seen it discussed much. So what the hell, peoples? We are a culture that embraces death and the passing of life and goes on about being in touch with our ‘dark/shadow’ sides and being all edgy with our dark clothes, yet we don’t talk about suicide?

Granted, we are a culture rampant with abusers * cough cough * so to discuss suicide within paganism openly, we’d have to point out how we’re a cesspool of insufficiency.

Yeah, insufficiency. Oh, we try. We puff ourselves up. But you know what? For all the activity and esoteric shops, we get ridiculously little done. We party and buy shit, and that’s about it. Whoopee.

I haven’t seen any pagan group really discuss suicide. And the more I think about it, the more I think that we have nothing in our group/culture that prevents suicide.

  • We have no pagan ‘leaders’ like a priest that a person can go to to get concrete help.
  • What help? There is no pagan-specific help out there. Do we have message boards for mentally ill pagans to help each other out on? Do we have hotlines? No, we don’t even have fuckin’ temples to meet each other in.
  • We have no books or material discussing the morality of the topic.
  • We are scattered and isolated. This leaves people, well, isolated, and helpless in the face of suicidal ideation.
  • As a group/culture, we are immature. I’ll say it again for the people in the back. IMMATURE! We are a young movement, sure, but I find that we are overfed with bite size simplicity in our thinking. This means the average pagan is ill equipped to deal with suicidal ideation. We say ‘an harm ye none’ or ‘we do not bow to gods!’ and rarely take a step further and think about it. Really, we don’t.
  • We are victim blaming in our approach to mental illness. Telling people to avoid doctors, get out in nature more, and meditate more is ableist and victim-blaming. Period.

I could go on about the flaws in paganism, as I sometimes do. But I’m going to stop here.

People, we need to have these conversations. We need to stop, drop, and think. What would you say to a fellow pagan suffering from suicidal ideation? What are your views on suicide? How does suicide fit within paganism?

 

 

6 Comments

  1. O.L.P. says:

    WELL. (forewarning: a novel ahead!)
    I had this problem for a long time. Unfortunately, I suffered from religious delusions and psychosis. I clung to my practice despite the fact that it was pretty unhealthy for me. I even remember having one day of suicidality at the thought of ceasing my practice (and then refusing to explain it to my parents or doctor due to shame and confusion about that).(this is actually the first time I can remember admitting that to anyone so thank you for asking these questions!) Stopping my practice definitely helped me recover.
    Even now, this year, I had a lingering delusion and I am again stopping my practice to recuperate and focus on art and other things. This has been an ongoing issue through my seven years of paganism. Yet I’m still here.
    I think if I could have somehow met a pagan priest/ess with whom I felt comfortable examining the nuts and bolts of my practice without judgment, I might’ve been saved a lot of trouble. I really don’t know all the causes of my various illnesses but… had there been pagan institutions and pagan mental health care professionals to help me early on, I think it would’ve been really good for me. Luckily, when in recovery, I did find one and she helped me a lot.
    I agree that we’re a young movement. Temples, hotlines, all of that would be amazing. I’ve often been sad that we don’t have them. I really hope that someday we come to see that forming institutions of a kind are not all bad, and we do need them!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Michael says:

      Ouch, that sounds so rough to go through! I’m glad you’ve found a way to cope and get better! I do agree that pagan infrastructure would probably help people out, and I really do hope that it will happen in a healthy way. I feel like so much of our infrastructure that we’ve tried to make hasn’t gotten very far, or been very successful for some reason and I’m not sure why? Like there’s obod, for example, but do they actually help their members and guide them? Maybe it’s because I’m no longer part of a group that I feel like there’s nothing…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. O.L.P. says:

        Thank you! It was.
        Agreed! I don’t know why either. Infighting maybe? Unsure.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Michael says:

        There is definitely a TON of infighting in pagan groups… it seems like whatever unifies us isn’t somehow enough to span our divides? I don’t know why it’s this way, though.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. O.L.P. says:

        one theory I’ve heard is that magic attracts a lot of ego. “with great magic, comes great responsibility” and not everyone knows how to be responsible like Spiderman

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Michael says:

        Huh, yeah. I do think pagans could use some of the christian humility…

        Like

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