Suicide - Riding Through Difficult Emotions


I’ve loved watching Anthony Bourdain’s Food Travel shows.

Those dark bleak days when alone parenting my child, struggling with depression, and hopelessness. I’d switch on the TV to watch Anthony’s No Reservations. My son and I would forget our worries and be lost in the fascinating world of different foods in exotic places.

We did not travel to any exotic places, but my son and I have had some fun memories of eating in small, cheap places on our travels where the food was interesting.

Thanks to Anthony Bourdain he made eating even in the ordinary places glamorous and exciting.

Hearing about Anthony Bourdain’s suicide has felt like a personal loss.

And that he leaves behind a young daughter makes me feel doubly sad.

Couldn’t the thought of his little daughter stopped him from taking this drastic step?

Struggling through years of abuse, suicide was just a thought away. Even though I’ve never got down to it. There were times I seriously thought of doing it. But somehow I managed to ride the wave of pain to hope. Believing there is a solution down the road. And thus I have been pushing myself to overcome the waves of sadness and despair.

Moreover, since becoming a mother, even in my most hopeless times, the thought my son alone was pain that overcame every other pain.

Psychotherapist Kristin Barton Cuthriell, in her book The Snowball Effect, explains how to ride through difficult emotions

Emotions are temporary. They do pass. Sometimes we just need to be able to ride the wave and resist the urge to do anything at all. When an upsetting event occurs, if we can just stop for a moment, identify the emotions that we are feeling, accept them without judging them, and remind ourselves that they will pass, we may find the courage to endure them for a little while.

In that small space between the event and your response, remind yourself to ride the wave, and you will, without a doubt, make a wiser decision about how to handle the situation. Remember, emotions make us human. We can experience our feelings and make rational decisions all at the same time. We just need to make sure that we are in a wise state of mind before we respond. Ride the wave of emotion without reacting at all. It definitely is a wave worth riding.

Sadly the punchline of the show No Reservations was:
The trip No Reservations takes us on is not about easy answers or giving up. It's about seeing the world with open eyes, stepping outside your comfort zone and taking the bitter with the sweet.

Oh, why couldn't Bourdain believe and actually have the strength to live that maxim.

From my own experience, I can say that even though it may seem tough and hopeless. We need to learn to steady the board and surf on. Believing that the next wave will wash you safely ashore.

Believing and trusting that all is not lost even though we may be all wet and battered.  At these difficult times, we need to know how to ride the wave of painful emotions, Accepting and tolerating the emotion without jumping to a quick fix of permanently stoping it.

Teaching our kids how to ride the waves of difficult times is one of the best life skills we can empower our kids with. Suicide is never the solution.

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I agree Cheryl. 

We are in a very rough spot in human history--  because while we need to help people who are already hurting, we also have to change the fact that most kids are not getting the nurture they need.  We have to plug the hole in the bottom of the bucket.  We have to name the lack of nurture, and connect it to things like later suicidality and addiction, at the same time as we are teaching skills to people who already got shortchanged.  We have to have these difficult discussions, and confront existing systems like very early daycare that can damage future wellbeing.  

Other societies give financial support to new parents to stay home, which America should be doing.    When we total up the lifespan costs of not giving kids enough nurture, supporting parental care of infants will be a lot cheaper in the long run.

Yes, Laura, that's the way most of us should learn how to self-soothe.

But unfortunately in today's world, with most mothers returning to work when the child is barely 3 months old and left in daycare where there are another 10 kids who demand attention most kids internal self-soothing mechanism has been impaired.

Then one has to make a conscious effort to learn how to regulate and ride through difficult emotions.


The main skill that undergirds both non-suicidality and of non-addictiveness-- and the skill that can be obliterated by early trauma-- is Emotional Self Regulation.  Kids learn Emotional Self Regulation as babies and toddlers, by being regulated externally (soothed) by an attuned, reliable caregiver many thousands of times.    If every time a baby feels distressed, someone safe assists and comforts the baby-- by changing a wet diaper, feeding, comforting, holding that baby-- then a pattern of "I feel bad briefly, but there is help, and soon, I feel good again" is learned.  The skills of positive self talk, self-encouragement, and self-empathy are also learned by being modeled and happening consistently from the outside.

The way kids learn to 'ride the waves' is someone riding them out alongside them, and modeling how. 

Hi Cheryl, 

Thank you for your insight and wisdom about this very difficult topic. 

I am forever grateful that you chose to ride those waves and stay with us. What a glorious companion you are to the lives of so many people. 

I agree with you 1000% about teaching our children how to ride the waves of difficult times.

I am discovering that because of developmental trauma I am having to bring into my life so many developmental and relational skills that I did not learn when I was younger. I am thrilled that we can always transform those rocky starts in life and develop what we need for our now moment. 

Big hugs! ❤️