The tragic death of tWITCH (his stage name), Stephen Boss, by suicide not long ago almost shocked me and breaks my heart. He was Ellen Degeneres’ cohost and executive producer on her show for many years.
An amazingly energetic, talented, and seemingly happy professional dancer who always brought a smile to my face, and millions of others decided, in a moment he can’t take back, that his life wasn’t worth living.
The day before, he had posted a TikTok where he was, it appeared, joyfully dancing. No one, it seemed, knew the pain he was suffering because depression doesn’t always LOOK LIKE depression. When we are suffering, we often wear a mask, so no one knows, so that we can function in life, and usually because we feel shame.
In my book, I refer to it as the “facade.” He was the father of three children, was happily married for many years, and was highly successful and RICH.
Tragically, suicides are on the rise; the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) reports that suicide, overall, remains a major public health issue. It is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.
I have my ideas about why this is so. I think it has to do with our increasing lack of connectedness to others and community and to what’s truly valuable and false underlying beliefs perpetuating feelings of emptiness and hopelessness. If only I had this job, this house, this much money, this person…if only, if only, if only. None of those things is ever the answer.
And because we don’t know the difference between happiness, which comes from external things, and JOY, which comes from within.
Questions may plague us like … what’s my value? do I have value? what’s the meaning of life? what is my purpose? And sometimes, when we come up empty, the will to live is lost.
tWITCH was only 40 and leaves behind three young children and a broken-hearted wife. Clearly, he had so much more to give to this world, but he lost hope that his life and existence mattered when that was the opposite of the truth. But he couldn’t see it in that moment when he put a gun to his head.
Some people believe that suicide is a selfish act, but I disagree. It may appear that way, but when someone reaches that point of despair, their brain is SICK, and the despairing person’s brain ceases to think rationally.
“CRAZY” thoughts such as everyone will be better off without me…life is not worth living…it’s too painful to endure…it will NEVER get better…overtake rational, self-preserving thoughts.
I know because I’ve been there. But unlike tWITCH, somehow I didn’t kill myself, and I would never have known the joy that I experience and talk about frequently if I had ended my life.
Anytime I hear about someone who has died by suicide, my heart turns and aches because I think if only I could have told them to wait…not do it…you matter…because there is so much light and beauty on the other side of the darkness.
I cry for tWITCH, his family, and everybody who loved him because his death ends the chance that he would ever experience the abundant light that comes after the darkness. And this is an opportunity to remember that one doesn’t always know the pain another is suffering and that kindness may save a life.