“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.