Suicide, the S word… a word people don’t want to say and defiantly don’t want to discuss. I know I didn’t until August 22, 1998. On that date, it didn’t become my choice to discuss the S word… that was the day my mother committed suicide.
It was also the day I became a survivor of suicide (that is what the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention calls it). I didn’t learn this term until years after my mother died, but it actually is a good descriptor… for many days, weeks, and even years I felt as though all I could do was survive her suicide.
Having your mother committee suicide is far from glamorous. Though the years there haven’t been walks for me to do in her honor with her name on a t-shirt. I think it is absolutely wonderful the number of walks, 5Ks, marathons, bike races, for the awareness and prevention of many different medical issues… but when you have a mom kill herself you often wonder where your walk is? Instead of being able to honor my mother, many years I felt I had to hide the way she died.
Society often teaches us to be ashamed of mental illness and in turn suicide. I know many might say I am the one with the hang up with not being willing to discuss it openly. I tried, I really did. When I was in college I was very open with how my mother died, but I quickly learned people really didn’t want to know. It made them extremely uncomfortable. I learned over the years to avoid the questions about my mother being dead. I honestly didn’t want to reassure someone when they felt horrible after asking how my mother died.
I do believe society has made some steps in regards to suicide and suicide prevention, but I also get discouraged. I am discouraged when I attended a high school and worked at a college where the suicide of a student was completely ignored. It seems people don’t know how to deal with it and are uncomfortable so they ignore it.
Ignoring doesn’t fix the problem and it sure doesn’t help the survivors of suicide. When a suicide is ignored, those left behind by the person also are ignored. The pain and grief they have is brushed under the rug because others are uncomfortable with discussing suicide. It seems if we could get over our own issues with being uncomfortable with the topic of suicide, we might be able to help those left not just survive a suicide, but thrive.
I refuse to be silent anymore and if it makes others uncomfortable, they will have to be uncomfortable.
A great resource (I found the last few years) is the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The organization is a resource for those struggling with suicidal thoughts and survivors. http://www.afsp.org/