On Death and Suicide: A Shamanic Perspective

As today, November 16, 2014, marks the 10th anniversary of my sister’s suicide, it seems a fitting time to write a post on death and suicide, starting with a disclaimer: death is ultimately a mystery and a sacred contract of the soul.  Every contract is different and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to the subject. The views I will present on suicide and death are what I have observed from my work as a shamanic practitioner and are a reflection of my current personal cosmology.  They are not meant to be taken as absolute statements or applied indiscriminately as every case is unique.  I strongly encourage anyone who is contemplating suicide to seek help and healing and pursue other options.  Our mainstream system does not provide the full spectrum of help that is available, and if the origin of suicidal thoughts and inclinations is not the soul, meaning it is not part of the soul contract to die that way, it is important to find alternative solutions when mainstream ones are not sufficient.

Suicide is death like any other death.  There are many ways to die, none worse or better than others.  From the Judeo-Christian ethos we get the concept that suicide is different than other forms of death, deserving punishment in the afterlife.  Because of the pervasiveness of the Judeo-Christian influence it becomes important to state that there is no punishment in the afterlife.  This does not mean that what you do in life doesn’t matter, it does, but not in the reward-punishment scenario we get from the concepts of Heaven and Hell.  Hell, in my experience as a shamanic practitioner, is a place that is created by the human mind and is a place we put ourselves in. The concept of Hell is derived from places in the afterlife dedicated to purification. There is fire, but not awful punitive fire – cleansing, purifying, sacred fire.  There can appear to be suffering in those realms not because they are causing suffering but because they are cleansing suffering.  Suffering is what we experience in the human realm; it is not an inherent quality of the soul or spirit.  If we bring remnants of our human suffering with us into death, it makes sense that we could use some purification along the way.

The Judeo-Christian concept of Heaven and Hell has created problems in the death-process because it can generate a very strong fear of dying.  People that are afraid of punishment when they die are less likely to cross-over and more likely to get stuck in an intermediate phase of the process.  Part of my work is facilitating the crossing-over of souls that are stuck in this reality (called the middle world), and I often find that the cause of the block is fear of punishment.

Which brings me back to suicide.  One potential source of suicidal ideation is the presence of a deceased soul who has not crossed over.  The portals to death are magnetic; they create a pull toward death.  If the consciousness of a living person is influenced by that of a deceased person (think overlapping and cross-communicating fields of consciousness), they can feel that pull themselves. But the pull to death is not intended for the living.  Our conscious perception can not always distinguish between “self” and “non-self” input.  In this case the magnetic pull toward death that is for the “non-self” consciousness will be perceived by the consciousness as “self” causing confusion for the living person.  Deceased souls who have not crossed over often carry a lot of emotional charge (remember they are often afraid of crossing over).  That emotional charge can also be experienced by the living person and can feel like unremitting depression, anger, rage, fear, or grief.  It is unremitting because it is non-self energy and therefore cannot be healed or transformed by the living person.  The alleviation of symptoms in this case comes through the release of the deceased soul.

The souls of the dead lingering in the middle world can influence the experience of anyone, but it is especially relevant to note when suicidal ideation occurs after the death of a loved one.  In this case there are two possibilities as to the cause of the suicidal ideation: one is that the deceased person has not entirely crossed over and is lingering in the middle world for some reason, the other is that we have experienced soul loss and a part of us has gone with the deceased into the afterlife.  In the case of the former work can be done with the deceased soul to help them cross in a time-appropriate manner (crossing over is a process that can take several months).  When a part of our own consciousness has followed a loved one to the afterlife we may be aware of death more than usual and feel that magnetic pull.  Or we may feel like a part of our self is missing, or feel spaced-out and dissociated from life for an extended period of time.  A soul retrieval can assist in bringing the soul part back to the middle world.  I experienced this after the death of my sister.  I felt like a part of me had “died” with her and I was checked-out to an unhealthy extent.  A soul retrieval helped bring me back.

Another source of suicidal ideation, or a preoccupation with death in general, can come from the desire of the soul to go through a death-rebirth transformation.  In this case we are likely to be going through a type of ego-death.  Something is dying, so the awareness of death is relevant, but it is not the “Big Death” of the body, it is a “Little Death”.  Dark nights of the soul can be like this.  Some periods of depression are Little Deaths.  In this case ritual can help facilitate the transformation of the psyche – ritual is an external enactment of an internal process.  The enactment of the internal process in an external form is facilitative.  Being out in the natural world which reflects these death-rebirth processes through the seasons can be facilitative, as can various forms of healing work, meditation, and other self-care practices.

I stated above that what we do in life matters.  Not because of afterlife punishment, but because death is not a get-out-of-difficulty-free card.  We’re here on Earth to learn.  If suicide is used to avoid difficult life circumstances the soul may not learn what it came to learn, and in that case may need to re-visit similar circumstances.  In other words, a person may commit suicide only to discover they bailed out early and may have to start over in that particular learning.  So it is not a solution to life’s problems even though it may provide temporary relief.

In some cases suicide may be a part of the soul’s contract, but that may be impossible to know in advance.  I wrote a song about my sister’s suicide which includes the line “Mission accomplished or aborted, who can say?”  As it is an irreversible decision with strong consequences, I believe it is important to exhaust all other possibilities first.