Suicide And Religion Don't Always Mix, But I Believe That They Should

Suicide And Religion Don't Always Mix, But I Believe That They Should

Assisted suicide is a subject that is very blurry when it comes to religion, and I think that should change.

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Four years ago, almost to the date, Brittany Maynard took her own life through Oregon's right-to-die law. She garnered national attention by packing up her belongings and moving 600 miles from California to Oregon at the age of 29.

Most 29-year-olds do not get incurable brain cancer. Most young cancer patients do not choose assisted suicide when given a terminal diagnosis. Most people would not decide, as Maynard and her husband did, to pack up and move to another state so she could have that choice. Maynard even decided to let the world in on her excruciating choice, opening herself and her family up to criticism at a time when that is the last thing they needed.

Of all deaths, between 0.3% to 4.6% are reported as euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide in jurisdictions where they are legal. The frequency of these deaths increased after legalization. Brittany, in an interview, said "Having this choice at the end of my life has become incredibly important. It has given me a sense of peace during a tumultuous time that otherwise would be dominated by fear, uncertainty, and pain."

The subject of euthanasia has highlighted religious tensions among many groups of people. The ethical controversy surrounding the subject of euthanasia was founded on the moral and religious notion that it contradicted God's creation of life and injured others if someone decided to end their life.

Buddhists have a simple opinion on the subject of euthanasia, as Buddhism is comprised of the essence of the Four Noble Truths. These truths explain the truth of suffering, the truth of the cause of suffering, the truth of the end of suffering, and the truth of the path that leads to the end of suffering. Damien Keown, who is a professor of Buddhist ethics, says "The bottom line is that so long as there is no intention to take life, no moral problem arises." Buddhists are taught to have a great respect for life, Keown says, even if that life is not being lived in optimal physical and mental health.

This means, for instance, that while a terminally ill person should not be denied basic care, he or she could refuse treatment that might prove to be futile or unduly burdensome. Buddhists also believe that one does not need to go extraordinary lengths to preserve a dying one's life. Even though a terminally ill person should not be denied basic health care, they would refuse treatment to prolong their life.

On the other hand, all three major Jewish movements in the United States – Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform – prohibit suicide and assisted suicide, even in cases of painful, terminal illnesses. Under Jewish law, the directive to preserve human life generally outweighs other considerations, including the desire to alleviate pain and suffering. According to Rabbi Leonard A. Sharzer, associate director for bioethics at the Louis Finkelstein Institute for Religious and Social Studies at The Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City, Judaism teaches that life is a precious gift from God. He says that "A person's life belongs to God, and therefore deciding when it ends should be left to God." According to Jewish teachings, doctors and caregivers should not do anything to hasten death and generally must work to keep people alive as long as possible.

I am Jewish, and I do not stand for the opinion of the Jewish movements that prohibits an action for someone's right-to-die. It is ludicrous to assume that all people of a designated religion will have the same opinion. Death is a private matter and if there is no harm to others, the state and other people have no right to interfere.

In the case of Brittany Maynard, she suffered from a terminal brain tumor, greatly impacting her future quality of life. She pushed for her right-to-die, allowing her to end her life in the presence of friends and family through a specific process that allowed her to understand what the impact would be and the timeframe in which her life would end. Brittany said, "If you ever find yourself walking a mile in my shoes, I hope that you would at least be given the same choice and that no one tries to take it from you." Each person is entitled to their own decision about their life. I believe that a person should have the authority to exercise their right-to-die in cases where death is inevitable.

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Everything You Will Miss If You Commit Suicide

The world needs you.
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You won’t see the sunrise or have your favorite breakfast in the morning.

Instead, your family will mourn the sunrise because it means another day without you.

You will never stay up late talking to your friends or have a bonfire on a summer night.

You won’t laugh until you cry again, or dance around and be silly.

You won’t go on another adventure. You won't drive around under the moonlight and stars.

They’ll miss you. They’ll cry.

You won’t fight with your siblings only to make up minutes later and laugh about it.

You won’t get to interrogate your sister's fiancé when the time comes.

You won’t be there to wipe away your mother’s tears when she finds out that you’re gone.

You won’t be able to hug the ones that love you while they’re waiting to wake up from the nightmare that had become their reality.

You won’t be at your grandparents funeral, speaking about the good things they did in their life.

Instead, they will be at yours.

You won’t find your purpose in life, the love of your life, get married or raise a family.

You won’t celebrate another Christmas, Easter or birthday.

You won’t turn another year older.

You will never see the places you’ve always dreamed of seeing.

You will not allow yourself the opportunity to get help.

This will be the last sunset you see.

You’ll never see the sky change from a bright blue to purples, pinks, oranges and yellows meshing together over the landscape again.

If the light has left your eyes and all you see is the darkness, know that it can get better. Let yourself get better.

This is what you will miss if you leave the world today.

This is who will care about you when you are gone.

You can change lives. But I hope it’s not at the expense of yours.

We care. People care.

Don’t let today be the end.

You don’t have to live forever sad. You can be happy. It’s not wrong to ask for help.

Thank you for staying. Thank you for fighting.

Suicide is a real problem that no one wants to talk about. I’m sure you’re no different. But we need to talk about it. There is no difference between being suicidal and committing suicide. If someone tells you they want to kill themselves, do not think they won’t do it. Do not just tell them, “Oh you’ll be fine.” Because when they aren’t, you will wonder what you could have done to help. Sit with them however long you need to and tell them it will get better. Talk to them about their problems and tell them there is help. Be the help. Get them assistance. Remind them of all the things they will miss in life.

For help, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Cover Image Credit: Brittani Norman

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10 Ways In Which I Have Dealt With Losing A Friend To Suicide

December 8, 2017 was a day my world became a little darker.

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Just your normal Friday evening, it was snowing, and my classes were done for the semester. I was on the third floor of our campus library. When all of a sudden I got a dreaded email. He was gone. The guy who although I only knew him for a couple weeks came to the back of the bus to come talk to me while I rode to my piano class. I would be lying if I told you that I have been okay physically, emotionally, and/or mentally since that day. But here are some things I have learned to ensure I am healthy during this tough season.

1. Understanding the situation

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This is the first time that I have really lost someone close to me in a pretty traumatic way. The feeling of shock and grief can be pretty overwhelming. Sitting with those feelings can be really uncomfortable but are 100% necessary.

2. Realize that no two people experience loss in the same way 

I think the hardest thing for me has been looking at others who were also close to him, much closer than I was, and thinking that they have their life together and are not having the type of bad days I am experiencing. I have to constantly remind myself that people go through different stages of grief at different speeds, and there is no "right way" of showing how much you are hurting.

3. Acknowledge that this situation is unique

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Losing a friend or loved one is never easy. However, when you lose someone to suicide as I did, it can feel different from other types of loss. Several circumstances such as the stigma around this issue can make death by suicide different, making the healing process more challenging.

4. Fight the stigma

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Stigma around mental health and suicide have been a problem in our society recently, and as a pre-health profession major, I have worked to the best of my ability to break that stigma down to the ground.

5. Understand that there can be risks for survivors (AKA me)

People who have recently experienced a loss by suicide are at increased risk of having suicidal thoughts themselves. After experiencing the loss of a loved one, it's not uncommon to wish you were dead or to feel like the pain is unbearable. Remember that having suicidal thoughts does not mean that you will act on them. These feelings and thoughts will likely decrease over time, but if you find them too intense, or if you're considering putting your thoughts into action, seek support from a mental health professional.

6. Find support 

It's very important to find people in your life who are good listeners so that you can turn to someone when you need extra support. You may find it helpful to talk to a friend, family member, mental health professional, or spiritual advisor.

7. Stay present 

Take each moment as it comes. That way, you can better accept whatever you're feeling and be able to respond in the way that is most helpful to you. I personally benefit from calling my best friend. Some people find journaling helpful to let go of your thoughts for now.

8. Find time and space for yourself to grieve BUT don't allow yourself to be in that space for very long 

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Acknowledging your experiences is necessary. Whether it's talking about it with a friend, journaling, or just sitting with your thoughts in private. Just make sure you leave enough time to do something pleasantly distracting from time to time. Social events or pleasant activities can provide relaxation and distraction. Laughter heals the soul.

9. It's OK to cry

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Just because I just said to schedule fun activities doesn't mean that you should bottle up feelings for that time. It's okay to have those emotional breakdowns once in a while.

10. Have an accountability partner 

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With the one year anniversary coming up with my friend, I have already brought in two of my really good friends into my life that have promised to check up on me all week to make sure I am balancing feelings with living my life. Find that someone or two that will walk with you during this difficult season.

To anyone reading this article and has gone through a similar struggle with losing a friend to suicide, know that I know how it feels, and I am here for you. Life may seem unbearable right now but it will get better. Probably not today or tomorrow, and in my case, not a year later. But believe it or not, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

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