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What It Means When You Think About Your Death but Don't Want to Die

Editor's Note

If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

“I hope I don’t wake up tomorrow morning.”

That is the classic thought of someone living with passive suicidal ideation. It’s not really a desire to die by suicide; It’s just a way of expressing how much it hurts to be you.

It’s not active suicidal ideation — the kind where you make an actual plan to end your life, even if you never put it into action. It’s passive, meaning you’d like to be dead but don’t intend on doing anything about it. It’s like asking the universe to take over and do it for you.

I’ve certainly had passive suicidal thoughts. Once, I was very stressed and depressed while coming home from a business conference. I clearly remember thinking, “Maybe the plane will go down and keep me from having to deal with all this.” I certainly had no plan to rush the cockpit or anything like that. I just wanted my pain to be over. I wanted the choice taken out of my hands.

At that time I was not actively suicidal. I’ve been there once too, and this was completely different. When I was suicidal, I had actual plans and plenty of means to carry out any one of them. I’m not going to discuss what those plans were. (The difficulty of choosing among them may have been what kept me from actually doing it. By then, my depression had lifted just enough for me to get help.)

It was easy enough later to make jokes about the passively suicidal occasions and most people took them as exactly that – jokes. It was even plausible they were jokes. It was only much later I thought about it and realized I needed help even on those occasions. After all, isn’t pain the source of much humor and the downfall of many comedians?

Passive suicidal ideation is asking yourself “what if?” What if my troubles were over? What if my pain was gone? What if all I had to do to accomplish this was to let that vehicle hit me instead of stepping out of the way?

The important thing to remember is that someone passively suicidal is in great psychological pain and wants not to feel that way anymore. In that respect, it’s similar to self-harm. And like those acts, it doesn’t end the pain at all. It may be a temporary escape valve, but it’s not a solution.

Passive suicidal ideation is certainly something to take seriously, and an excellent reason to see your psychiatrist or therapist as soon as possible. If you hear a friend or loved one talking this way, encourage them as strongly as possible to seek help. Let a professional decide if the person has passive suicidal ideation or active suicidal ideation. It is entirely possible that passive suicidal ideation will lead to the more active kind and even to death if it is not dealt with.

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