“Suicide is selfish.”
“Suicide is cowardly.”
I hope no one reading this has ever expressed one of those two sadly common viewpoints, but if you have, you fucked with the wrong guy because I’m flipping that table right on top of you. Strap in, kids, this is gonna be a rant.
It’s on my mind partially because suicide figures into the story of Stephen King’s “IT” and trolls on the Facebook discussion group about the new film have succeeded in getting a rise out of me. I am also close to the topic because my mother was a suicide.
I like to think, though, that even without these triggers I would feel the same way. It suits me, since I have an instinct to stand up for underdogs. I mean, making a suicide out to be the bad guy in his/her own suicide? Talk about punching down.
So, couple few things …
- Suicides are not selfish … YOU are selfish for making their death about you.
Many suicides actually believe that their death is the most selfless gift they can give their loved ones, because they see their mental illness as a burden to those loved ones; their own lives as a hindrance to the happiness of those around them. Doesn’t matter if they’re right or not – they believe it. It’s why successful suicides are often carried out in moments of lucidity, rather than from the depths of an episode.
It is, however, selfish to focus not on the life that was lost, but on the effect of the suicide on you as the survivor. Yes, comfort them and care for the needs of the survivors in their grief, but don’t use the suicide as a scapegoat. Haven’t they suffered enough?
Furthermore, by looking at the suicide as a villain for inflicting painful emotions on the survivors, you imply that grief is bad and a black hat is needed to account for it. It’s not, and it isn’t. Grief is something that all healthy people go through (I’m told. I’m still working on it). Pushing it down is both childish and unhealthy. If you choose to push it down by blaming the victim, I’m pretty sure that’s on you.
2. Suicides are not cowards … YOU are a coward for avoiding responsibility for your part, however small, in the suicide.
If you think calling suicides cowards makes you look tough and manly, it backfired. We automatically assume you’re a ginormous pussy, because you’re picking on someone who was in pain, was mentally ill, and is now too dead to defend him- or herself.
One of the earliest pieces of written wisdom, still instantly recognized today, is the following:
Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” And he said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground.” -Genesis 4:8-9
In other words, you are your brother’s keeper.
I can only speak from my experience, but I can tell you that mental illness can be a formidable and confounding foe. My mom crashed hard and fast; at 20 years old, I was no match for it. I felt helpless. She saw doctors; the doctors couldn’t help. I knew she was going to do it, and once it was done I really didn’t feel like I had the right to judge her, because I had seen how it was for her.
There’s no dishonor in losing that fight, and part of taking responsibility is acknowledging when life has dropped you into an ocean that is out of your depth. It’s a total dick move, however, to dodge the pain of that helplessness by blaming the suicide, like they could have and should have “tried harder.” Here’s an idea – why don’t you try harder not to be so callous?
Has suicide touched your life? If so, do you believe the suicide was cowardly or selfish?