“Beyond the combination of normal grief and traumatic grief, survivors of suicide suffer an additional insult to injury—the societal stigma that surround suicide. It may be relatively easy to tell a friend or coworker that a person died in a car accident, or of leukemia; it can very difficult to form words, “She killed herself.””

Grieving a Suicide, by Alber Y. Hsu

I went in for my yearly physical this morning.  The nurse went about getting my family medical history.

Did your father have heart disease? It was her first question.

Yes, I said.  Then those loud thoughts in my mind chanted.  Don’t ask. Don’t ask. Don’t ask.

Several years ago, my husband and I bought some life insurance policies; a nurse came to our house to take some vials of blood and took our family history.

How did your father die?  She asked.

He died of a gunshot wound to the head, I said. My answer tumbled out of my mouth full of anger. She looked like I had slapped her.

It’s been seventeen years since my father’s suicide, and those questions still bother me.  Some ask if he’s still alive and when I answer in a monotone no, they might ask how.  The answer sticks in my throat like someone’s stuffed cotton down it. I am just now realizing my anxiety comes from shame.  It’s one thing to feel shame; it’s another to realize I’m actually feeling shame.

Ahh, shame is slippery and is such a shitty feeling. It comes out sideways. I have wanted to blame others for making me feel shame.  Like that poor nurse.  You know.  How dare she ask me that question!  Or shame can stay inside and constipate.  I have pretended I’m fine and not let friends comfort me. Sometimes, I’ve had the insane thought that even God couldn’t comfort me.

Anyone who’s lost a loved one to suicide needs and deserves comfort not shame.

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