Despite being such a strong voice in support of those who have lost a loved one to suicide, I found myself silenced in disbelief recently when someone I am very close to made an insulting comment on the topic. To this, day, I am mentally kicking myself for not speaking up, but I was so appalled and confused, I didn’t know what to do in the moment.
It was late at night, with several people sitting around gabbing. I believe the topic shifted to suicide when someone mentioned the name of a celebrity who had just taken their life. One person said, “Could you imagine how courageous you’d have to be to shoot yourself?” A few people nodded in agreement. Then, the low blow came when someone else said, “No, I think it’s actually pretty cowardly.” I was stunned. After all, THIS PERSON ATTENDED MY FATHER’S FUNERAL and has to know what kind of effect on me this would have (not only the suicide but the insult). The subject quickly changed – and for that, I was relieved. But, all of this ruined my night. My husband was there to hear this and I asked him if they could have possibly remembered that I am a survivor of suicide. He took my lead when they were talking and kept quiet and said he didn’t think they remembered. While that made me feel one percent better, it also bothered me. Whether or not they remembered, this is how they really feel. Is that what this person was thinking when they received a call about my dad or sat in the pew at the service?
I’ve thought about saying something all this time later, but I still just don’t know what to do or say without causing a major awkward situation. Like, is it worth it to me to raise a stink or to just take the higher road, leave it be and realize that unfortunately, no one will understand how hurtful words like that are unless they’ve experienced the loss of a very close loved one?
I’m reminded of a post I wrote shortly after Robin Williams died on common myths about suicide. The act being cowardly is one of them. I am further irritated that the way society talks about mental illness and suicide is so exponentially further behind where it should be. Would anyone dare to criticize the lifestyle habits of someone who died from certain types of cancer or from complications of diabetes? No. There seems to be nothing but empathy. (I use these examples because I have lost loved ones these ways and I have not heard one ill-phrased word about it.) But, comments about suicide seem to be another story. Why? And will it ever change?
Normally, I do say something in situations like this and I’m promising myself I will go back to doing so. Have you ever been bothered by someone’s insensitive comments?