On suicide and other difficult subjects

Rabbi James Stone Goodman

By Rabbi James Stone Goodman

In the groups that I lead for Shalvah on Addiction and No Shande on mental health and mental illness, we are familiar with the subject of suicide. Whenever it comes up it tends to take over the meeting. 

The meeting is basically a teaching and a sharing, support in the simple sense that we show up for each other. The first thing we learn in the group is to listen. From there we come to understand each other – to know and to be known, and that may be the most important thing.

I feel the proximity of laughter and tears at our meetings, they are sitting next to each other at our table of human responses to the challenges of living. Tears are sitting in one seat at the table, next to tears is laughter and the distinction between the two is subtle. We are alternately serious and silly, sometimes at the same time, one eye laughing, one eye crying.

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{{tncms-inline alignment=”left” content=”<p><strong>• Shalvah on Addictions</strong> meets every Thursday night, 7 p.m., at the Jewish Community Center near Creve Coeur. </p> <p><strong>• No Shande</strong>* on mental health and mental illness meets the first Sunday of every month at 1 p.m. at Central Reform Congregation, 5020 Waterman Blvd. Shande means “shame,” and there is none.</p> <p><strong>• No Shande Community Open Meeting </strong>at 1 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 9 at the Jewish Community Center’s Arts and Education Building, 2 Millstone Campus Drive. Led by Rabbis Susan Talve and James Stone Goodman. Everyone is welcome to join the community conversation.</p>” id=”20e3010b-fed0-42b3-936d-20186e5cabff” style-type=”info” title=”Upcoming community support meetings” type=”relcontent” width=”half”}}

Every suicide is a trigger for the discussion of the group, a kind of wrinkle in the cosmic order for all, because almost everyone around the table has stood at the crossroads of life and death and has chosen life. And we all know people who have chosen otherwise.

Our group has heart for the stranger because we are all strangers. We do not judge. We show up for each other. 

We don’t have an antidote. We have a program. We have each other. I think lives are saved around our tables but we have no certainty. We do not practice aloneness, and we talk about spiritual things, not religious things. We have a daily reprieve based on our spiritual condition. We have today, and that becomes enough.

Rabbi James Stone Goodman serves Central Reform Congregation.