Suicide is generally a taboo subject. It’s hard to bring it up and when someone experiences such a brutal loss. The conversation consists of stumbling awkwardly over words, stammering, and the ever-dreaded awkward silence. It’s hard to figure out why, how, and what brings a person to that dark place where they feel trapped with no other way out. We just want to know why, but there isn’t any way to answer that question. When someone you know takes their life, it’s easy to walk through every conversation you’ve had with that person, to seek a scapegoat, and to become bitter. But when you can’t find someone to blame, and if you know enough to realize you can’t blame yourself and dwell on it, all you can do is grieve.
Grieving is awkward though. It’s dirty and ugly. It involves too many Kleenex boxes and tear-soaked shoulders. It involves calling on other people to carry you through the emotional strain that this loss has. Maybe that’s easy for someone out there, but I’m a pride-filled person and having others carry me is hard to deal with. I’d rather stick it out, tuck it in, bury it deep down and deal with it sometime later — after exams maybe.
But how do you grieve effectively and appropriately? Public displays of emotion are generally frowned upon — ever seen the woman holding back tears at the grocery store? Or the man on the bus who’s lip quivers every once in a while as he stares out the window? We generally divert our eyes and look away. So where do we grieve? Into our pillows at night, or the shoulder of a close friend who won’t be disgusted by our snotty sniffles and shaking weeps. Why do we hate to show our emotions? Because we equate them with weakness. It’s likely more acceptable for the feminine, like myself, to be caught with a few tears in the eye, but generally we frown upon the whole thing.
This topic brings out a variety of conversations. Individuals who have struggled with depression often discuss the struggle of coming up against the negative thoughts that, though uninvited, enter into the mind throughout the day. It’s an ever-present battle to force happiness and push through the dark moments. Trying to answer the question of why someone would take their own life is difficult because we can’t objectively stand back and look at these dark moments. You can’t let yourself enter such a dark pit that you can’t see a way out. And to ask someone who has been there is far too taboo to even attempt to touch such a subject.
I used to think of suicide as a selfish thing — that people who take their own lives saw life as too difficult and were selfishly not thinking of the people around them. However, if an individual is in a state where they see no other option other than suicide, how can they properly consider others? They are more likely to see their leaving the world as a favor to those around them. For them, they have convinced themselves the act is selfless and are not attempting to be selfish in the moment of despair. But if suicide is not an act of selfishness, is it an act of illness? Can we call depression an illness?
We desperately try to be politically correct — this is what causes us to stumble in conversations of suicide because we have no culturally appropriate script to follow. We could try reading the Hallmark sympathy cards, but generally we simply don’t have the words because suicide is such a dirty death. Good death is that old nana that passed away in her sleep with a smile on her face. This is not a good death. This is dirty. Its mud-covered, dirt-infused, ugly, nasty death. It gets under your nails and you can’t pick it out for weeks.
What do you say? How do you respond? It’s easier to make a few wisecracks, a witty quote to pull out of your sleeve, but in that moment, when someone tells you of a suicide, you have nothing. A joke just isn’t appropriate here. Perhaps the best we can come up with is “I’m sorry.” But words won’t bring a person back not matter how eloquently put.
That awkward moment is one of the reasons I hate funerals. I hate the conversations, the attempts to comfort and to provide support. Death just sucks. As we wrestle with the reasons and the meaning of the death, and where we go to next, we learn something about ourselves, like how we grieve.
I’ve never been one for political correctness. Respect is necessary, but there reaches a point when people should not be inhibited to speak because they lack the words — perhaps not quite as eloquent as a Hallmark card’s sincerest sympathies, but the best words spoken at a funeral I’ve heard were “That sucks.” Yeah. That sums it up well. Sometimes the least amount of words is the best, ‘cause sometimes things just suck.