Struggling to understand suicide

A silent taboo

Sadly, today, there are many deaths by suicide. Very few people have not been deeply affected by the suicide of a loved one. And yet suicide remains widely misunderstood, writes Ron Rolheiser.

Generally it leaves those who are left behind with a particularly devastating kind of grief. Among all deaths, suicide perhaps weighs heaviest on those left behind. Why?

Suicide hits us so hard because it is surrounded with the ultimate taboo.  In the popular mind, suicide is generally seen, consciously or unconsciously, as the ultimate act of despair, the ultimate bad thing a person can do.  This shouldn't surprise us since suicide does go against the deepest instinct inside us, our will to live.  

Thus, even when it's treated with understanding and compassion, it still leaves those left behind with a certain amount of shame and a lot of second-guessing. Also, more often than not, it ruins the memory of the person who died. His photographs slowly disappear from our walls and the manner of his death is spoken about with an all-too-hushed discretion. None of this should be surprising: Suicide is the ultimate taboo.

So what's to be said about suicide? How can we move towards understanding it more empathically?

Understanding suicide more compassionately won't take away its sting, nothing will, except time; but our own long-term healing and the redemption of the memory of the one died can be helped by keeping a number of things in mind.

Suicide, in most cases, is a disease, not something freely willed. The person who dies in this way dies against his or her will, akin to those who jumped to their deaths from the Twin Towers after terrorist planes had set those buildings on fire on September 11, 2001.

They were jumping to certain death, but only because they were already burning to death where they were standing.  Death by suicide is analogous to death by cancer, stroke, or heart attack; except, in the case of suicide, it's a question of emotional-cancer, emotional-stroke, or an emotional-heart attack.

FULL STORY Struggling to understand suicide 

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