By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN
Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness Desmond Tutu
“I wish I didn’t have hope,” she complained to her therapist. “I feel as though I am continually inflicting pain on myself by believing that what is happening is for the best, or that everything is going to work out. All that seems to do is keep me hoping. Then my hopes are dashed with more disappointment and more pain. Can you help me learn how to stop hoping?”
She was seeing a good, caring, skilled therapist. The best help her therapist offered was providing a safe and supportive holding environment. Here she was able to express all of her feelings, fears, and upsets, including her unhappiness with HOPE.
If it were not for hopes, the heart would break. — Thomas Fuller
That was her problem. Her heart was breaking. An essential relationship of more than 25 years was ending, not by her choice. Hoping that it would all get better or that they could end their marriage without inflicting pain on each other and their children seemed to be failing time and time again. Her heart was breaking.
Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better we can bear a hardship today. —Thich Nhat Hanh
“Don’t you see? Every night I go to bed following Scarlet O’Hara’s message that, ‘Tomorrow is another day,’ meaning my world might get better, my relationships might mend and the pain might subside. And every tomorrow I wake up and nothing is better, no relationships have mended, and the pain is not subsiding.”
She was not proud that there were times when she considered suicide. She wanted relief from the relentless pain. There were people who cared, who wanted and did help and yet the pain and despair were relentless.
Having worked as the manager in an emergency service of a mental health center, she was knowledgable of strategies for suicide prevention. During those times when she was dangerously close to acting on her self-destructive thoughts she did her own suicide assessment. She also tapped into all that she knew, including the fact children of parents who suicide are much more likely to suicide themselves. To kill herself was not horrifying to her. But knowing that her action and absence gave her sons a kind of permission for suicide was completely UNACCEPTABLE. It was this knowledge that kept her from taking any irreversible action.
She knew it was vital to use whatever it takes to keep a suicidal person alive. This included herself. During those dark and painful days she used this as her reminder and strategy. This enabled her to hang on for a little longer. She was beginning to realize that HOPE, including the HOPE that she would get through this time and arrive at a place where thoughts of suicide were a memory, was her ally and savior. She was beginning to be grateful that her therapist did not teach her how to give up HOPE.
It is a good thing when all you have is hope and not expectations. — Danny Boyle
She was beginning to realize that things may be happening for the best, that things would work out. But that might mean that her expectation for her saved marriage could be replaced by the hope of a genuine and mutual love with another. She was learning how to embrace her hope, release her expectations, and to even give thanks for this tragedy as the start for greater hopes and fulfillments.
I share this personal story with you, dear reader, for those of you who may be feeling self-destructive presently. Please wait. If the world turning into more and more tomorrows doesn’t change your perspective, you can always choose suicide later. But if you choose it now, you will never know when a moment of glimmering hope might expand into love, light and laughter again.