A member of my community took his life. It was a sudden and traumatic loss and while some people treated his widow with kindness, she shared that she was unprepared for the hurtful actions of others. For example, she saw a friend walking towards her one morning in our small town. The friend saw her too and she quickly crossed the street to avoid her. A colleague also shared a hurtful experience following the suicide of her physician brother. Though she was a child, she vividly remembers the sound of her neighbor’s footsteps as she crossed their wooden porch. When her mother answered the loud knock, the neighbor asked, “Jean, how’d he do it?”
It’s shocking to hear that someone has taken their life but even more shocking to learn that people do not give the bereaved the same support they give for other deaths. Why should we shy away from someone who is grieving just because their loved one took their life? As one widow states, “My husband was a good man and lived a good life; he just chose to end it badly.”
When you learn that someone has died and the cause of death is suicide, please do the same things that you would do to comfort and support the bereaved. They’ll need your support now and for a long time to come. It’s just the right thing to do.
Robbie Miller Kaplan is an author who writes from a unique perspective as a mother who has lost two children. She has written How to Say It When You Don't Know What to Say, a guide to help readers communicate effectively when those they care about experience loss, now available in three individual volumes: "Illness & Death," "Suicide" and "Miscarriage." Additional titles are available as e-books: "Death of a Child," "Death of a Stillborn or Newborn Baby," "Pet Loss," "Caregiver Responsibilities," "Divorce" and "Job Loss." All titles are in Amazon's Kindle Store. Click here to order.
Image Source: Flickr Creative Commons/foundphotoslj