Monday, April 16, 2012

Modern suicides

Francesca Woodman

I think modern suicides are different from the traditional suicide - if one can call it that.  Of course many suicides are the result of serious depression.  A friend of mine with bipolar disease - is that how you are supposed to say it? - recently committed suicide.

I stayed up late last night to watch a documentary on PBS about a young artist, Francesca Woodman.  I found it disturbing and couldn't sleep very well.  She threw herself from her roof in NYC.  The interviews with her parents were quite sad - Francesca killed herself because she wasn't achieving her goal - that is how I understood it - I may be wrong of course.  Oddly enough, her suicide almost seemed to be part of her art - which had been her reason for being.  That is why, aside from the nihilism of the age, I believe suicide is understood differently by younger people in our day.  

The documentary was an interesting look at Francesca and her family, all of them artists.  It might have been nice, I thought, to grow up in a family of artists.  The Woodman's made a good living - they were able to summer in Italy - the kids schooled there - I can't begin to imagine what it would be like to have such a family.  They seemed removed from ordinary life, although I'm sure they would claim their life was most ordinary.  I'd like to see the documentary again, when I don't have to worry about going to sleep, or getting up the next morning.

Anyway - Francesca reminded me of Isabella Blow - the lady I just posted about - she also committed suicide.  (The news of my friend's death prompted these reflections.)  I sometimes wonder if some people are so numbed down, so depressed, they come to a point where they can no longer feel anything but pain, at which point they self-inflict a physical act so violent and painful, perhaps to prove to themselves they were really alive - that they could still 'feel' something 'other'.  But then it is too late.

Just a thought.

I've written in the past about a nun who suffered from depression all of her life.  Just before she died - of old age, she told me the Lord had finally healed her, delivered her of all anxiety and depression, that she no longer cared about what people thought of her.  She told me she no longer had anything to prove to anyone, or felt the need to compete.  She died in great peace.  If only everyone could embrace that peace for themselves now - to anticipate the graces Our Lord holds in store for us, to be distributed at the time allotted.

Remember what Fr. Zosima said:  "Pray for the suicides."  Perhaps our prayers for them now could have been anticipated at the moment of their death...

Art:  Francesca Woodman


  1. Terry,
    My cousin's son recently committed suicide. He was in his 20s. Interestingly, the first cousin of the man who took his life did the same a few years back (their parents are twin siblings).

    I think a dimension that is so often overlooked today at least is the demonic influence in this regard. I think it cannot/should not be underestimated. I was having this same discussion with my parents a while back and i'm not sure it registered. The devil and his minions are the destroyers of life and sow hopelessness, death and destruction wherever they may.
    My consolation in all of this came from something I heard on a Mother Angelica rerun a while back. She talked about that moment between when one takes one's life and the particular judgement and that we can pray and hope that the person who had lost all hope repented of taking their life.

    Yes, we need to pray for suicides and for all who are lost in that darkness that is a precursor to it.

  2. no one should judge a suicide - we do not know what was going on in their head. Thank you for posting this.

  3. Manic Tonight12:19 AM

    As a bipolar I can tell you my lows are so low that suicide is the cure. Life itself is fake and meaningless, god doesn't exist there, but hell looms in my conscience so I've never even attempted.

    1. Prayers for you and with you. What you say here is what I was reaching for.

      Did you ever hear this from Betsy TenBoom: "No pit is so deep that his love is not deeper still."

  4. We should never try to judge people who had committed suicides. We're not aware what's the real story behind the blood.

    Puerto Azul

  5. Someone I know killed herself on good friday. very very sad. She loved God and I know she would never have wanted to offend Him if she were in her right mind and not so very extremely ill. God sees and knows all. He is a merciful God. He will have mercy on your friend.

  6. Terry, I'm sure you of all people are familiar with Father Groeschel's approach to this topic.

    He's mentioned that suicide survivors feel like they were hit "with a back freight train" or something - that literally they almost lose free will in lots of cases.

    Some suicides are certainly an arrogant "f you" to God and the world - Hemingway's suicide reminds me of this, but even there we have to withhold our own judgment - but it seems that for most people, something is really not right, and yes, I agree with what servus said about Mother Aneglica, too.


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