SHARING SUICIDE and OTHER NOTES ON DEATH
I’m trying to puzzle your reply out, Chris, as it’s not entirely clear precisely what you’re responding to in Stephanie’s sharing of her brother Peter’s suicide. Are you arguing that, as much (including details about notes, motives, intentions, etc…) should always be shared as a general way of becoming more aware, and de-stigmatizing the entire problem of subterran stigma around suicide?
If so, while I tend to agree in principle that bringing things out in the open through more communication, verbal, oral, visual and aural or applied arts and tactile can open the doors of perception wider, and help dispel the smoke from the darkest hidden corners, there are also valid issues of simple, human sensitivity to the moment, feeling, and situational dynamics. There are time and place to delve more deeply into the why, how and how-better to, “in future” of someone’s suicide or any death; there are tools, places, times, and safe spaces for people to be able to move under the shelter of widespread wings. Of family, friends and faith or other comfort zones.
However, that’s two-way airflow; Personally I believe it’s bad form, and horrifying that anyone when approached by an obviously well-meaning person who clearly has no idea that inquiring in a certain way, or about a certain aspect (eg., “Was there a note?”), would respond in a such a pejorative, draconian way to someone who meant well, and was not overtly or intentionally offensive. Understandable, but unnecessary and ill-advised. There are simply more gracious ways to let people know something is not emotionally open for discussion, than using anyone’s goodwill moments to punish them for what you perceive as poor (suicide) ettiquette. That, is the height of solipsistic and self-centered living.
One of the most important parts of Stephanie’s story is that it illustrates in many, varied circumstances how little literacy this Anglo Saxon White Protestant culture has of, and how little conversant it is in the great equalizer and arbiter, Death. Other cultures and other faiths deal with death, its rituals and traditions in cathartic processes, meant to move and assisst immediate survivors, to make certain they are held even more tightly in embrace by their communities, not abandoned or discarded out of shame, but re-integrated healthily and with healing, in every aspect of their lives, empowering their personal healing processes that must come ultimately from within. Jews have incredibly supportive and longstanding rituals, community, family and friendship support and have practiced these as central to their faith, since their beginnings. Tribes in Africa, Norse, Viking and Saxon clans all had death and healing rituals; Most Native American tribes are paragons of integrating death and dying into cycles of life—by suicide or any other way.
Christian and Catholic faiths’ among other influences are the bedrock of Western culture’s stigma and perversion of inner-guilt and shame. Context, and knowledge of the world’s wisdom traditions, their understanding and processing of life’s cycle’s, intentions, inner workings and release of perceived harness or control can bring as much healing, and peace as other spiritual avenues, available to survivors, and seekers of grace beyond surviving the death of someone you love and are mortally bound to in life.