When news broke yesterday about the passing of Chris Cornell, I was saddened. Although I do not know him, I know his music. I love his voice, his poetry, his talent. I have spent many hours listening to his solo stuff, Soundgarden, Audio Slave, and Temple of the Dog. Knowing Soundgarden had reunited and was touring again brought a smile to my face.
I don’t really know why. Music does that to many of us, I guess.
But as more and more news began to spread, ultimately leading up to the report that it was suicide, the typical, and truly sad, predictable comments began to occur. The statements of “what a waste.” The jokes that are always in poor taste but pop up whenever something tragic happens.
I am used to this by now. In real life, tragedies happen and there is usually a manner of respect shown for the deceased and those left behind. But in social media and pop culture world, tragedies bring out the worst in people trying to bring attention to themselves.
His death is not occasion for a joke. His death is not the opportunity to decry all that is wrong with artists. His death is not the time to call it “a great waste.” His death is a tragedy. A wife is left widowed. Children are left without a father. Family members and friends will mourn his passing. And, in this instance, may even question if they played some role; if they should have done even more.
Chris Cornell’s death is no more tragic because he is a celebrity. But is no less tragic, either.
Cornell has spoken in the past about his struggle with drugs and alcohol. I do not know what his journey was like; if he was drunk or high that night or if he had been clean and sober for years. But that doesn’t matter.
But I do remember. I remember the places my addiction took me. I remember the nights when I was alone with my thoughts and it was not a great place to be. I remember the (mostly self-imposed) isolation. The days when my guilt beat me up for all the poor choices I was making and the nights when justification said “one more” couldn’t possibly make a difference. I remember receiving praise and compliments for my work yet believing in my self-talk which said I was not as good as the next person.
I was never suicidal. For that I am grateful. But there were many nights that I sat by myself and thought this world would be a better place if I was not in it. I loved my wife and my children. I loved the rest of my family. But really, would anyone miss me? Wasn’t I causing more trouble than I was worth? I was losing the will to fight to ever get well and I was hating the path that I was on.
Let me repeat: I was never suicidal. But there were a lot of days that I thought the only way I would overcome my addiction would be to die.
I don’t know Chris Cornell. He was a celebrity whose art I admired. However, maybe we can use the occasion of his reported suicide to ask people around us how they are doing—and actually want an answer. Maybe we can keep our eyes open for those who are isolating themselves. Maybe we can make sure to actually nurture relationships and not take them for granted.
Maybe we can reach out to families who are suffering loss. Maybe we can consider the power of our words and not speak them so carelessly.
Maybe we need to speak up for ourselves. Maybe you are the one who is hurting and you need to reach out for help.
I know the pain of being isolated. I know the uncertainty of wondering if my life is worth it. I know the difficulty of asking for help.
If you are hurting, please speak up. If you know someone who is hurting, please be kind.
When a tragedy occurs, avoid the temptation to “tsk” or to joke. Remember the pain that exists. Reach out and take care of those around you. Take care of yourself and speak up when necessary.
Remember that your life is worth it.
*The number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK