Your book was very moving. It must have been very painful to write.
It was tough to write. But there are very few things you can do with these sorts of experiences except try to share them, to hopefully help people.
You write that recovering from a suicide is a spiritual journey. What do you mean by that?
Well, if I had not been already been meditating, I would certainly have had to start. I've treated my own depression for many years with exercise and meditation, and I've found that to be a tremendous help. Recovering from the suicide of a loved one, you need all the help you can get, so I very much recommend a meditation program. The whole picture of how to recover from this has to do with body, mind, and spirit. That's applicable to any kind of depression.
I have something I call the "Seven T's" that I like to use to help people going through this recovery. They're basic and mundane, but they help. Truth, Therapy, Trust, Try, Treat, Treasure, and Thrive. Truth is that there are no guilts in suicide. Therapy--there are so many networks for recovery, places to find healing and help and communication with other people who have suffered from this loss. Trust--you must live your life and not shut down. This contributes to a kind of post-traumatic illness associated with suicide, so we want to get out and talk about it, and talk about the person that we loved. Try means try to stay away from alcohol and drugs in the recovery. Treat the mind, body, and spirit-- exercise, meditate. Treasure the moments--journaling is very helpful for this. Thrive, the last of the seven, means to be positive, hopeful and loving and know that you can get through this.
Your book includes many journal entries you wrote during the past ten years. Had you kept a journal before Clark's suicide?
I've kept a journal for most of the second half of my life, probably about 30 or 35 years. Since the late 60s I've been journaling, and it's very helpful in every situation that I've gone through.
I was certainly raised in the Christian belief, but I have a practice that believes in all saints and all gurus. Anybody who's been on the journey can help me. I'm a multi-disciplinary person. I do a meditation discipline, which is probably eastern in its origins, but I think that everything helps.
Do you believe in heaven?
I think we're here. I think every body has a different definition of heaven. I don't think I'm going to be greeted by vestal virgins, and I doubt if I'll be walking among the clouds with Voltaire. I might! We don't know. But I do know that the spiritual life has to be lived here, in the same frame as everything else. It's like looking at the world with different kinds of glasses on. It's all here. We live on so many different levels of perception. And when we live with music, as I have my whole life, we're living in another realm anyway. Most of what we take as being important is not material, whether it's music or feelings or love. They're things we can't really see or touch. They're not material, but they're vitally important to us.
Do you think of heaven as somewhere Clark might be now?
I believe in a spiritual existence. My beliefs would more closely parallel the idea of reincarnation, of the spirit not being destroyed but going on in some form or another. I see Clark every day--he's certainly present in my life.
Is this book the first time you have publicly revealed your own suicide attempt? [Collins overdosed on aspirin at age 14.]
I talked about it briefly in a previous book, and I think I mentioned it in "Trust Your Heart." I think it is part of the bigger picture, that maybe I have a better understanding of this than other people because I'm a survivor [of a suicide attempt] myself.
I think suicide is sort of like cancer was 50 years ago. People don't want to talk about it, they don't want to know about it. People are frightened of it, and they don't understand, when actually these issues are medically treatable. They're things that we know about--mental illness, depression, the body chemistry. We've seen absolutely remarkable progress--with illnesses, with cancers.
But you acknowledge in the book that there has been a lot of progress in how we understand suicide, since the early 90s when Clark killed himself.
Yes, there has. Now there's more to read, there's more available. So I'm adding, I hope, to the fund of information that will be available to anyone who has this experience.
How do you hope your book touches people who have dealt with suicide, as well as those who haven't?
I'm hoping it will be one more voice added to the chorus of creating a new way to look at the survival of a loved one's death from suicide, to help further the understanding that this is an illness, like heart disease. I did a lot of research--this is not only a personal journey of my own, but I also incorporate things I've learned, the studies, the reading, the talks I've had with people in the field. So I'm offering a bit of a short cut from where I was after my son's death.
What spiritual books or teachers helped you recover?
When Clark died, I had a group of books I used regularly. There are many tools to use, but some that helped me a great deal included Stephen Levine's book, "Meetings at the Edge." It was tremendously helpful. "Around the World with Emmet Fox" always helps me. I love the "Letters of the Scattered Brotherhood," a series of letters written by Catholics after the second World War. James Hillman wrote a book called "Suicide and the Soul," which I found very helpful.
I was struck by what you wrote about organized religion so often treating suicide as a sin.
It has. For many centuries, suicides were treated like criminals by the society. That is part of the terrible legacy that has come down into society's method of handling suicide recovery. Now we have to fight off the demons that have been hanging around suicide for centuries.