1. Say something. Say anything.
It becomes a question of tactics and we arrive at, “Just say something.” Because something is better than nothing when nothing may stretch to infinity.
I ask my child, “How are you doing?”
At least they are still here.
Anger is better than death. Sadness is better than death. Fighting is better than death. Crying is better than death. Laughing is so much better than death.
2. Share your skills in staying alive
A balance between self-care and the never-ending job of engaged-parenthood, I develop a language replete with nuanced silences; there is no need to hide the truth. In this house we all walk part-time in shadow worlds. Half hidden, half revealed, this is the art of staying alive.
Sometimes TV all day is a good choice. Sometimes sleeping piled in blankets is the only thing that works. Sometimes reaching out hurts too much and being alone is less painful. Sometimes talking is too hard and just sitting is better.
The art of staying alive is about making any choice except for death.
3. Offer a sense of safety in shared experience.
There are words for it. Suicidal ideation. Self harm. Depression. Survival strategies. Para-suicidal behaviors. Let the words find purchase in your lexicon. Let the words grow roots and branches. Let them weave themselves, canopy-like, a dense, lush jungle of meaning.
These words can offer shelter in a storm, and can be used for prognostication.
Tell your child about the long nights spent staring down your own desire for the release of harming. Tell your child about the songs you learned to sing to quiet the internal monologue. Tell your child about the dreams and responsibilities that kept you tied to your body when the storms threatened to tear you in two.
More Radical Reads: 7 Ways to Support Someone Who May be Suicidal
4. Model good choice making.
If you can, get out of bed. If you can, feed yourself. Even when everything tastes like tears and sand, still eat. Eat because your child is watching. Eat because you can’t afford not to show your child how to survive.
Sleep enough when you can. Be awake at the right times if you can bear it. Rouse yourself to conversation. Offer and ask for hugs.
5. Cultivate the humor of a Greek god
Sisyphus was cursed with rolling a rock up a hill everyday. We learn from Sisyphus. Keep choosing life.
More Radical Reads: Learning to Live with Wanting to Die
6. Share the idea that when you don’t feel like staying alive for you, you can stay alive for others.
In the darkest moment we forget our lives are a gift. A dark, tortured, bitter gift perhaps – but a gift all the same. When I don’t feel strong enough to stay alive I offer my life as a community endeavor of healing. We are all in this together.
At a ritual this spring I offered my choice to keep living as my sacrifice. “I love you, and this is why I am still living.” I said to my siblings, my mother, my community members.
In my darkest moments I remember sacrifices others have made, and I choose to continue making mine. This life is my rock.
Lasara Firefox Allen is the best selling author of “Jailbreaking the Goddess: A Radical Revisioning of Feminist Spirituality” (2016) and “Sexy Witch” (2005), both published by Llewellyn Worldwide. A wild hearted change agent, Lasara delivers tools for transformation, provides strategies for embodiment, and creates vibrant spaces for personal and collective liberation. Lasara’s coaching and teaching work weaves together themes of empowerment, embodiment, body positivity, sexual liberation, feminism, and owning our whole selves.
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[Feature Image: A photo of a person surrounded by large white space. The person has short dark hair. Their eyes are closed. Source: Victoria Nevland]