Suicide, the great escape, has been called the Coward’s Way Out by many zealous individuals who most likely have no idea what it takes to actually override your largest human instinct, that of self-preservation. The physical act of suicide is anything but cowardly, and its difficulty and the courage it requires are a couple of reasons why many of you are alive today.

The true coward is – like most of you – the one who runs from all that is death-related. The one who does not attend his best friend’s funeral, because doing so means looking at death. The one who will not purchase life insurance to protect his family, because that means he would look at the possibility that one day he may die. The coward, when asked “Would you prefer to be buried or cremated?” not only will refuse to answer, but will insist you are a morbid person for asking.

The coward is far too afraid to kill himself. He is also afraid to discuss a classmate’s suicide with his children. He would never ask his children or other family members if they had ever considered suicide, even though this just may initiate a conversation that could save a life. No, the coward would rather convince himself that suicide happens only to other people, and then go watch football.

A coward chooses not to educate himself on his family medical history, in order that genetic diseases and hereditary conditions may be caught in time to buy a longer lifespan. His mantra becomes, “I would rather not know.” He convinces himself that treatment for various cancers, heart problems or other health problems would be expensive, time-consuming, painful or burdensome, so he would rather be dead. He assumes his wife and family would rather not have him around than have him around on prescription drugs or in a wheelchair. So he lets himself die.

One need not have a near-death experience to slowly overcome his cowardice. Start small. Step outside your comfort zone.

Perhaps you can research your family health history and you discover a few things worthy of exploration. Did your father or grandfather die of lung cancer? Did your aunt die of breast cancer? Start there. Talk to professionals about that type of cancer. Set up a screening for yourself to look for risk factors. Get an honest evaluation of your lifetime probability of developing that cancer. Maybe you can even talk to people who currently have or have had that cancer – find out what life is like for them, what their treatments are like, and what it would be like if you had to fit those treatments into your own life.

Visit a funeral home on a slow day and tell them you have never thought about death before and ask about types of funeral services available. Ask to see the caskets and the floral arrangements. You might even be able to see the crematory, the cooler and the embalming room if no human remains are present. Remember that you or someone you love will end up in one of these places at some point. There is no way around this.

Go to a funeral, even if you did not know the deceased. Perhaps a friend or distant relative has experienced a loss; they will appreciate your presence. Ask questions. Ask how they died. Ask how they lived.

Find out the impact your death would have on your family…and the impact your spouse’s, parent’s or child’s death would have on you. Do not tell yourself that will never happen. Do not refuse to think about it. Thinking and talking about it will not bring it on faster. Don’t just say you’ll kill yourself if that ever happens, because I’m guessing you don’t have the courage to do so. Find out how much a funeral will cost. Find out how much time off work you will be allowed. Remember these are not hypothetical situations; this is something you WILL deal with.

There are no “good” and “bad” emotions. Sadness is not “bad.” Sadness is an appropriate response to a situation which makes you sad. Likewise, happiness is not “good” if you force yourself to appear happy in the midst of intolerable pain. A coward will fear the display of sadness, anger and grief.

If any of what I’ve said makes you horribly uncomfortable, you’re probably a coward. So stop being one. Do something that scares you. Do it until it becomes comfortable, until you can discuss it with other cowards who will call you morbid.