By Tracy Renee Lee
It is sad when the pain of living overwhelms a person, and they feel that they would be better off dead. I am not talking about suicide; I am talking about giving up on life.
As a funeral director, I see cases where people have simply given up. I bury them quite often. I wonder if one day I might be one of those people. Could I ever choose to give up on life and yearn for death instead?
People will come to the funeral home to plan their services and ask me, “Why can’t I just die?” Others articulate, “Why am I still here?” Sometimes loneliness motivates their desire to die, other times self-loathing or guilt is too much for them to bear. More times than not, however, I find that pain and/or illness are the big death motivators. Nevertheless, it is very disconcerting that some people find the pain of living so overwhelming that they invite, and even yearn for death to take them. It would seem that longevity might be overrated.
Families seem to transition more easily when a loved one passes under these motivators rather than under a cloud of suicide. Family members have usually cared for the loved one as they have transitioned from enjoying life to painfully enduring it. These experiences seem to prepare family members for the result of losing their loved one. Under these circumstances, I often hear remarks stating, “It was just her/his time” or “he/she is in a better place.”
A death actuated from a lack of desire to live is generally deemed a natural death or one of natural causes. To me, however, the desire to bring on death by giving up on life is most unnatural.
Although after rolling out of bed from another painful and sleepless night, I wonder if, after too many more years of this, I might also desire to see death at my door. I hope not. I have so much to live for.
To willfully court death is abnormal. Through observation, it occurs to me that people who cannot endure the pain of living perhaps lack fulfillment in the deficiency needs. The four lower tiers of Maslow’s Theory of Hierarchy, a.k.a. The Deficiency Needs consisting of Physical, Security, Social, and Ego, evoke extreme anxiety in their absence. Could it be this anxiety that motivates one to focus on the pain of living rather than the joy of life? Moreover, could this anxiety be the catapult, which brings human beings to a place, where they give up their will to live?
It is only after the deficiency needs are fulfilled that one can begin to experience the final layer of self-actualization. Self-actualization is where joy and fulfillment are realized. If Maslow’s Theory is correct and if the failure to achieve the deficiency needs brings on such anxiety, forceful enough to suffocate the will to live from human beings, how sad is it that all we need to do is tend to the needs of our fellow beings to eradicate the pain of living.
Simple service between human beings presents itself as a moderate investment with big payoffs. Turning a life away from misery and over to joy is a worthy gift indeed. Sharing your smile or cheerful words costs you nothing; however, such a tiny effort can change someone’s will to die over to a will to live.
As a licensed funeral practitioner (FDIC/EIC) and Certified Grief Counselor (GC-C), I have my own theory: “People choose their deaths through habits, choices, and attitudes.” Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a simple act of kindness changed someone’s habits, choices, or attitudes back to a place where their will to live overtakes their pain of living?
That is my challenge to myself. To reach out to those who suffer the pain of living and serve them in a way that their will to live returns. Won’t you join my challenge and make it your own?