When I woke up today, I had every intention of silently grieving the news that has poured in over the past 24 hours regarding the death of Linkin Park front man Chester Bennington. While I understand that such news will affect everyone differently, I have decided that I, for one, am done staying silent.
I fear that our internet age has allowed us to take a back seat and watch as the world burns without batting an eye or letting it affect us. I will be the first to admit that there are assets to the internet in allowing us to communicate and be connected more than we ever have. Yet, in the onslaught of information and a thousand voices clamoring at once, I fear sometimes what really matters gets lost in the noise.
As I was skimming my Facebook newsfeed today, I stumbled across a meme reacting to Chester’s death. Because the death was reported as a suicide, the responses appear different, in many cases, as they would be if there was a car accident or heart attack or some other cause of death, including a drug overdose. Our culture believes these sorts of deaths as tragedies. The apparent view of suicide, on the other hand, seems to think that it is appalling, unthinkable.
There is a problem with this. The fact that someone would even deem it appropriate to create a meme mocking a man who’s life ended a mere 24 hours ago, is unthinkable and yet it happens. It happens far too often. The individual who created this meme was senseless in terms of considering the added pain that it may have caused to Chester’s loved ones in addition to the weight of what his suicide has left in its wake. Memes are disengaged ways of coping with life and while I am all about using humor and irony to laugh at our problems within our culture, I do not feel that mental health, death, and suicide are not issues that are laughable.
Think about it, if someone died in a tragic accident, terrorist attack, natural disaster… would we find a meme about it funny? Why is suicide any different? It shouldn’t be. Yes, I understand that Chester took his own life, by his own choice, yet the darkness that he battled must have been beyond comprehension. I by no means wish to romanticize suicide but I do want to shed light on the ways our culture responds to it and hopefully cause even a ripple in terms of changing the conversation and ways that we respond.
As someone who has lost loved ones due to suicide and as someone who has herself personally struggled with depression, suicidal thoughts, and tendencies with failed attempts in her history, I will say that we have got to stop brushing it aside, condemning the victims, or mocking the pain. With the internet world being what it is, while we seem to be the most connected, we are simultaneously grossly disengaged. Because we share a post or like a page, we have done our job. We stuff the news somewhere deep inside our conscience and go about our days as if nothing happened.
Now, I am not saying that we should not post the things that matter to us. What I am saying is that it must not stop there. We must allow ourselves to engage, Let yourself wrestle with this kind of news. Cry. Empathize. Although I never knew Chester personally, I know I was not alone in being touched by his music. Music that still holds echoes of the weight that he was carrying and the struggle to believe that life was worth it all. Unless you have been there, you have no right to an opinion.
Perhaps you have been there? Perhaps these disengaged memes are a way of hiding behind a mask of mockery because you are too afraid to admit the fear you carry. The fear that if people knew that you’ve thought about it too, the shame that our culture, our churches, our media have portrayed that suicide is condemning or heroic. It’s easy to point the finger.
Friends, suicide in neither condemning nor heroic. The decision to take one’s own life leaves irreparable damage in its stead. Death holds a finality that you could never begin to comprehend until you are staring it in the face. For someone who holds that much pain in their heart, for someone who’s body and mind have warred against one another for so long, it seems the only escape. I get it, I’ve been there too. But I also know that life holds so much beauty that it is worth it to keep going.
Jamie Tworkowski, founder of the organization To Write Love on Her Arms, has written a beautiful article to respond to what is beyond a doubt felt as a great loss to the world. TWLOHA has been a source of hope for so many, including myself. I am forever thankful for those like Jamie, whose hearts beat with compassion, love, and a dream to make the world a brighter, more hopeful place. Let’s do our part to change the conversation. Let us not be afraid to open our hearts and respond in love to those who struggle beyond comprehension, to lose who feel they have lost all hope. To the loved ones and anyone affected by Chester’s death. my heart goes out to you. My prayers and love are with you.
If you or someone you love struggle with depression or suicide, please reach out. Get help. Jaimie has shared these resources, so I am posting them here as well:
Crisis Text Line is a great place to start. Simply send a text to 741-741. A trained crisis counselor will respond, 24 hours a day and seven days a week. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Like Crisis Text Line, these folks are available 24/7.
For additional resources, including licensed mental health counselors, please visit TWLOHA’s website.
In the end, the only thing that matters is that we take each moment as it comes, that we learn to laugh and love and breathe and find beauty in every bit of it. What matters is that we learn to love. Love the people that surround us, those who are battling wars inside of them that we couldn’t begin to understand, love the life you’ve been given… beauty is in all things if we simply pause for just a moment and look. Take in every sunset, every sunrise, as a celebration that you have made it another day. Collect the memories that make you smile, the ones that make you laugh and remind you that you are loved. You matter and you are worth it. You are worth another day and many more to come.