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  • Renee LaVallee McKenna,MA

Suicide On A Soul Level


Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain drawing by Renee McKenna

The tragedy of suicide for me is not the loss of the person, but the deepening of their suffering on a soul level. No one gets out of here alive I believe in the continuity of the soul. I rarely feel sad when someone dies. I feel moved, inspired, nostalgic and compassionate, but I rarely feel sad. Death is one of our greatest teachers, ever reminding us of the impermanence of all things.


Far from being a sad or scary thing, I have always felt like death was a wise friend, the doorway to the great mystery of ultimate reality. Death whispers, “Pay attention. Live well today. Love deeply. Take risks.”


Of course, I have deep compassion for the loved ones that remain and the shock and loss they feel and my deepest condolences go to Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain's family and friends. But usually I only feel sadness if the person who passed didn’t live well - or die well. Suicide is usually not dying well.


Unfortunately, I have had known many people who took their lives. Although it may seem very woo-woo, the spirit world is very close to our own and if one meditates upon the dead it is pretty easy to connect with them- most of them anyway. But people who commit suicide are harder to reach because they have tried to removed themselves from the life force, they have “taken their lives.”


In optimal form, we give ourselves to life. The more fully we surrender to the life process, surrender to the path of our own pain, the more quickly and clearly life pulls us to the next right thing. There is always a next place and there is a next place for those who have killed themselves, but the scars of hopelessness, pride and fear, plus the confusion and the exponential suffering caused to loved ones by suicide, are inescapable on a soul level. Once free of the body, the soul continues to face the same dilemmas it faced on earth.


Because we are all spiritual beings having a human experience. We are all here to grow and evolve on a soul level. That’s our work and it doesn’t end when we die.

Did you ever notice how the same problems, the really deep ones, come up over and over in your life? How you married someone just like your father or your secret feelings of unworthiness or inadequacy keep popping up, no matter how much exterior validation you get. These issues are our work on a soul level and we come to this life, maybe we even volunteer, to grow and mature and to heal our deepest wounds.


I think life on the human level is like a big consciousness factory. We take raw life energy and manufacture our experience. If we are willing, we can turn fear, grief and rage into passion, wisdom and love. We can also churn out hatred, confusion and suffering. That’s free will, if we’re awake enough to realize that we have a choice.


I believe our purpose is to evolve consciousness into higher forms right here in our own lives. We each have a particular job to do or a unique configuration of mis-understanding to transform. This is our karma or work on a soul level, and we don’t get away from it by killing ourselves. In fact, suicide usually just adds a layer onto what we’ve already got.

The highest truth, the ultimate reality is that we are all a part of a great whole. We are like waves in the ocean, but when we get into these bodies, we forget we are actually made of water and the illusion of separation can be excruciating.


I don’t know why it’s set up like this and I certainly hope I find out when I move to the next place. But I do know that pain and joy are the instruction manual for living. We can trust our experience. Pain means something is wrong. We need to make corrections. Joy pulls us forward toward the highest good. Pain pushes us toward the highest good, too, by making what is out of alignment with the integrity of our soul unbearable. Sadly, when people kill themselves in a secret, isolated way, the act of suicide seems to add to their suffering on a soul level.


We each have our own unique misunderstandings about ultimate reality to dissolve, our own fears to face, our own rage to release or grief to wash in. Life is supposed to change us. The more fully we can surrender to the life force, no matter how radical the change we are called to make, the greater our joy and fulfillment and the more peaceful and evolved will be our soul.

We keep coming up on the same lessons or inner work over and over until we grow to our soul’s potential and realize that much of what we fear or hate is illusion. Hinduism calls this illusion maya and Buddhists call the realization of the ultimate reality nirvana. I’m much closer to maya than nirvana. I bet I have another 50 lifetimes to get there, but the waves keep rolling in, just like our soul keeps incarnating until we experience ourselves as the sea and learn to surrender to the tides.


The two times I’ve seriously wanted to kill myself were two of the most outwardly successful times in my life. The first was in high school when I was president of my senior class, getting all A’s and yet deep in food addiction and codependency. I couldn’t tell anyone the truth. Ultimately, I needed to change my entire outlook on life, but that took a few more years of excruciating despair and bottoming out in addictions. There is a saying that you can’t save your ass and your face at the same time. You have toy pick one.


The second time I wanted to kill myself was just last year. It was brief, because I now know that wanting to die means that some part of me needs to die. And, thank Goddess, I know how to tell the truth. I called my supports and said, “Hey, I want to kill myself. Isn’t that weird?”


After some intense contemplation and a few therapy sessions, it became clear that my fear of failure and need for approval needed to go. My inner people pleaser needed to jump off the bridge, but not the rest of me. It was time to step out and write my book, tell my own quirky truth, do the scary thing and let go of what other's think. Immediately, the suicidal thoughts and despair vanished. Within 2 weeks I had a writing coach and a goals group. They just appeared. I'm in final edits with the book. This blog today furthers that path.


After my friend Bobby hung himself, he came to me in a dream. He told me he was doing OK but that he knew he had to come back again, but he didn’t really want to. We can resist the flow of life even in death. So interesting.


I send blessings to Kate and Anthony and all who are touched by their deaths. I will pray for them and light a candle after I post this. I always light a candle when I am moved by a soul’s passing. There is always hope. Light is always available and because we are all connected. Because we are all part of a greater whole, praying and sending love and positive intention really does have effect. But I also believe that suicide wasn’t really a way out for them. It might be a reset button, but I believe that they are going to have to come back to the same place where they left off again and again until they get it right.



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