I want to tell you the story of the mysteries of life and death that my brother Pete, who committed suicide twenty-five years ago, and I are sharing. This true story speaks about a type of love seldom explored. It probes the rich interweaving of a lifetime of relating as brothers--at times close, at times distant, exchanging roles of giver and receiver, but ever deepening into a love that pierces through the veil of death.
We all experience loss. It is an unavoidable part of being human. When someone we love dies, it is natural to wonder whether the person we love is now at peace. Near-death experiences hint at what may go on during the process of dying but do not address what happens after that. Now there are new sources of information about what we experience after physical death. These sources suggest a rich, varied, and changing life of the spirit, with the possibility of at least some communication between those living in the physical and those who have died. The science of these links is beginning to be explored. This book provides an expanded view of life after death, particularly after death by suicide.
In addition, this book is about conquering the grief that follows a person taking his or her own life. Globally more than a million people a year commit suicide, which equates to one person every forty seconds. When we experience the suicide of someone close to us we feel the shock, denial, helplessness, and sadness of all sudden deaths but statistics suggest we also experience more depression, fear of aloneness, and relationship problems. When someone chooses death, that person renounces our power to help. This renunciation tempts the survivor to feel a persistent worthlessness and guilt. Many survivors are silent about their pain. Most would benefit from talking it out with someone who will listen and will not judge. I hope my book comforts you if you are ever affected by suicide and lightens your heart by hearing about the intelligent, respectful, and compassionate beings that await to help and guide us all after death, regardless of the method of our dying.
I feel my sharing in this book can counter the harsh, medieval attitudes about suicide that still permeate many cultures and religions today. My own mother, in addition to the devastation of losing her son, agonized about her treasured son spending eternity in hell accoridng to Catholic belief. Within Christianity the unforgivable sin is the sin of despair. Suicide is also condemned in Judaism and Islam.
I will tell you of a recent experience to show how severe and superstitious our root culture stance is to suicide. Recently I was visiting New Orleans to give a talk at a conference. On a free afternoon my wife and I decided to take the city ghost tour. As we assembled in front of the old church by the river our guide told us this story. She said that a few centuries ago church and state were completely intermingled and that we were standing in front of the building that was that very seat of power. In those times, when someone committed suicide, their corpse was put into an inquisition chair in this church and then interrogated and tortured for hours. As the person was dead and could not put up a defense they were always condemned, and in response they were then tied to a wagon wheel with their hands, feet, and head protruding past the rim. They were driven around town for ridicule and dismemberment, then fed to the alligators, bypassing any chance of being buried in sacred ground. Sacred ground held protection, so this unconsecrated disposal of the remains was believed to subject the person's soul to eternal tourment by the evilest of spirits. This story illustrates the rush to judgment and a total discounting of the psychological, spiritual, and life-event forces that might drive a person to taking their own life.
In ancient Greek and Roman times suicide (with certain exceptions) was considered a heinous crime against the state. The theme of disallowing proper burial and confiscating all lands and property, which punished the loved ones left behind, continued through European cultures, and in current times suicide is still considered a felony in many countries. There is still much denial of suicide as the heart-rending community issue it is.
Today, many people consider suicide to be a selfish and insane act, even while acknowledging that the suicidal person may be responding to massive pain that they percieve as intolerable. I would guess that there is a near universal question at some point in most people's lives about whether it is worth it to keep going on. In that dark moment we may stay for religious reasons, to meet family obligations, from fear of the unknown, or from hope that things will change. We must realize that some people may lose all hope that things will change, cannot conceive of a good reason to stay, and just be too tired and discouraged to go on.
I feel that it is urgent to apply enlightened thinking to allow healing comfort to be extended to and received by those who have suffered from the loss of a loved one through suicide. I want to present my understanding that there are many growth paths available to the spirit of a person who has committed suicide and that there is no way to be truly "lost for eternity." To this end I will be sharing my brother Pete's experiences on the other side for the last twenty-five years since he left his body.
I do not want to encourage anyone towards suicide and so I am starting this book in Part One with a republishing of an edited version of my 1996 book, Brothers Forever: An Unexpected Journey Beyond Death. It explores what happened to Pete immediately after his death upon reaching the other side. It also gives a clear and unvarnished report of the devastation that suicide produces in the loved ones who are left behind and reveals a way out of the grief. It was a difficult book to write but it helped me come to terms with my own loss and to move on. Brothers Forever has been out of print for many years, yet I still receive letters telling me how much the book helps when someone has experienced loss in their lives.
Part Two of Heaven is for Healing takes up the story twenty years later and explores what my brother Pete has been up to on the other side for these decades. We will see how helpers on the other side assist people in coming to grips with the act of taking their own lives.We might look at this book as an exercise in "Loving through the Veils:" the veils that keep all of us from fully seeing our true nature and potential, the veils we put over our hearts to try to protect ourselves from pain, and the veil between this life and the other side. I know now that love can pierce any veil.
My life is currently happy and I am enjoying success from authoring two books: Inner Vegas: Creating Miracles, Abundance, and Health, and Liquid Luck: The Good Fortune Handbook. Yet writing this current book is awakening difficult feelings. As with many traumas, when surviving a loved one's suicide, the pain can eventually be healed and a good life can be led, but echoses of the pain never entirely vanish. I think that you will find that, though the subject is sometimes sad, there is much humor, heart, and healing within this book. And if I am successful, you will have a greatly expanded view of the power of the heart, the amount of help that is available to us from the world of spirit, and you will be inspired by the loving grandness that awaits us on the other side.
In a recent eighteen-month period I was in the circle of three more suicides. The first person was my wife's sister who had suffered from an intractable illness for decades. The second was a woman who was in my opinion one of the best healers on the planet but suffered from a traumatic childhood and manic depression. The third person was my wife's boss, who left behind a wife and two young children. I have also experienced the death of my father, mother, and my dear brother John in these ensuing years. My perspective on death since my brother Pete's suicide has changed so much that I was able to handle all these losses in a strong, centered, and open-hearted fashion and return to joyful living much more quickly.
There is often a sense of uncertainty about what to do or how to be helpful to persons who are grieving a suicide. This can cause us to withdraw from them, under the guise that we want to respect their privacy, at the tume they actually need us the most. What is one to do to be helpful? Deborah Greene lost her father, Lowell Herman, to suicide on April 20, 2015. She is a devoted advocate on issues of mental illness and suicide prevention/awareness. She blogs at Reflecting Out Loud. I am including a letter from her blog here to show just how much simple acts of kindness and connection can help with the shock of discovering that someone we loved has left by suicide. Here is what Deborah wrote:
My Dad Committed Suicide
"No matter how many times my mind takes me back to that horrible life altering moment, it is not all darkness; because you reached out to help.
I remember you. Ten months ago, when my cell phone rang with news of my father's suicide, you were walking into Whole Foods, prepared to go about your food shopping, just as I had done only minutes before.
But I had already abandoned my cart full of groceries and I stood in the entryway of the store. My brother was on the other end of the line. He was telling me my father was dead, that he had taken his own life early that morning and through his own sobs, I remember my brother kept saying, "I'm sorry Deborah, I'm so sorry." I can't imagine how it must have felt for him to make that call.
And as we hung up the phone, I started to cry and scream as my whole body trembled. This just couldn't be true. It couldn't be happening. Only moments before I was filling my cart with groceries, going about my errands on a normal Monday evening. Only moments before my life felt intact. Overwhelmed with emotions, I fell to the floor, my knees buckling under the weight of what I had just learned. And you, kind strangers, you were there.
You could have kept on walking, ignoring my cries, but you didn't. You could have simply stopped and stared at my primal display of pain, but you didn't. No, instead you surrounded me as I yelled through my sobs, "My father killed himself. He killed himself. He's dead." And the question that has plagued me since that moment came to my lips in a scream: "Why?" I must have asked it over and over and over again. I remember that in a haze of emotions, one of you asked for my phone and asked who you should call. What was my password? You needed my husband's name as you searched through my contacts. I remember I could hear your words as you tried to reach my husband for me, leaving an urgent message for him to call me. I recall hearing you discuss among yourselves who would drive me home in my car and who would follow that person to bring them back to the store. You didn't even know one another, but it didn't seem to matter. You encountered me, a stranger, in the worst moment of my life and you coalesced around me with common purpose--to help. I remember one of you asking if you could pray for me and for my father. You must have said yes, and now when I recall that Christian prayer being offered up to Jesus for my Jewish father and me, it still brings both tears to my eyes and makes me smile.
In my fog, I told you that I had a friend, Pam, who worked at Whole Foods and one of you went in search of her. Thankfully, she was there that morning and you brought her to me. I remember the relief I felt at seeing her face, familiar and warm. She took me to the back, comforting and caring for me until my husband could get to me. And I even recall as I sat with her, one of you sent me a gift card to Whole Foods; though you didn't know me, you wanted to offer a little something to let me know that you would be thinking of me and holding me and my family in your thoughts and prayers. That gift card helped to feed my family, when the idea of cooking was so far beyond my emotional reach.
I never saw you after that. But I know this is to be true: If it were not for all of you, I might have simply gotten in the car and tried to drive myself home. I wasn't thinking straight, if I was thinking at all. If it were not for you, I don't know what I would've done in those first raw moments of overwhelming shock, anguish, and grief. But I thank God every day I didn't have to find out. Your kindness, your compassion, your willingness to help a stranger in need have stayed with me until this day. And no matter how many times my mind takes me back to that horrible life altering moment, it is not all darkness. Because you reached out to help, you offered a ray of light in the bleakest moment I've ever endured. You may not remember it. You may not remember me. But I will never, ever forget you. And though you may never know it, I give thanks for your presence and humanity each and everyday.