Reading Time: 4 minutes A traumatic loss like my son’s suicide is a violent rupture. My beautiful boy, so uniquely alive despite his mental illness, is no longer a physical presence. The anticipation of helping him navigate the transition from adolescence into adulthood was suddenly, shockingly a dead dream.
secular suicide survivor
Marking one year without my son: Coping with death anniversaries
Reading Time: 5 minutes This entire column, not just this entry, merits a content warning. I write about suicide, depression, post-traumatic stress, and other serious topics. If you are having suicidal thoughts, please reach out to someone you trust, establish care with a therapist, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (988), or go to your nearest emergency room. Please […]
Speaking of suicide: How institutions help people and save lives
Reading Time: 7 minutes As soon as I finished Ann Herrold’s OnlySky column on suicide and psychiatric care, I knew I needed to respond. (If you haven’t checked it out, please read it first). I knew my own column would call upon crucial aspects of my identity: psychiatrist, community educator on mental health, a person who’s battled depression and […]
Disbelieve as you grieve: Rejecting the Almighty God of Mental Illness
Reading Time: 4 minutes Imagine no mental illness It isn’t hard to do No suicide, no grieving And no hospitals, too Apologies to John Lennon for those lyrics, but if you can imagine these things, you’re smarter than God. If an all-loving, all-powerful deity existed, why couldn’t He visualize a world free of mental illness, then proceed to create […]
Religious toxicity and grief: When to ignore, when to retaliate
Reading Time: 6 minutes After my son’s suicide, I was unprepared for the religious toxicity spewed my way. At first, I dodged it as uselessly as Newman with the frilly dinosaurs in Jurassic Park. But I learned quickly, and unlike Newman, I made it out alive. By setting boundaries in proportion to the offense, my mind could focus on […]
Dilemmas in suicide’s aftermath: How far to dig for the irrational why?
Reading Time: 4 minutes This is a heavier column than usual, so I’m opening with a content warning. If you are having suicidal thoughts, please reach out to someone you trust, establish care with a therapist, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255), or go to your nearest emergency room. Please stick around. We need you. This column is […]
Dilemmas in suicide’s aftermath: To disclose or not to disclose?
Reading Time: 4 minutes In the days and weeks after my son Josh took his life, I was faced with several painful predicaments. How do I break the news, to family, friends, coworkers, neighbors? How deeply do I dig for the irrational why, in cellphone, laptop, autopsy report? How do I handle religious aggression and other boundary violations? How […]
Mourning and remembrance without an afterlife safety net
Reading Time: 6 minutes I’m afraid of forgetting. Terrified, even. There’s a reason for my athazagoraphobia. With the unspoken rule of silence surrounding my mother’s death when I was 17, I can no longer remember her voice. The voice of the person who was central to my formative years. That’s tragic. Now that I’m 53, I’m facing the second […]
Stuff they don’t tell you about grieving: The ‘Space Cadet’ stage
Reading Time: 4 minutes During my days as a therapist for combat vets with PTSD, my patients would routinely tell me, “Doc, I’ve got CRS.” As in Can’t Remember Shit. Since my son Josh died, I’ve had a rip-roaring case of it myself. I stand motionless in the kitchen, puzzling over what I was planning to do next. I […]
Naomi Judd, guns, and suicide: Public health and the 2nd Amendment
Reading Time: 4 minutes America loves its guns, even though that love affair is killing us. If you own a gun, don’t worry. I’m not coming after them. I know of many nonreligious folks, like Seth Andrews, the popular Thinking Atheist podcaster, who own firearms. But as a secular humanist, don’t you want to live a life guided by […]