Someone you loved and cared for died. They took their own life. As good friends and family do, people come to support you. They come to comfort you. But their comfort could make you feel worse.
When I lost my friend Danny to suicide, someone told me suicide is selfish.
Don’t call people who attempt or commit suicide selfish. Don’t tell me Danny was being selfish.
When I learned Danny died, I could not function. I had always known Danny to be happy. I had so many questions.
Why did he do it? Did he consider his family? What could have stopped him?
I never asked if Danny left a note. I did not want to read a note. Danny had a specific voice and handle on words. He died more than three years ago. I still don’t feel strong enough to know his voice could be on a piece of paper right now.
To this day, I don’t know what drove Danny to choose to die. But the reason for one’s suicide cannot be covered by one blanket motive. In America alone, 800,000 people die by suicide each year.
Of the 800,000, the age range spreads from young teenagers to people older than 85. The demons plaguing a 12-year-old could be drastically different of those of someone in their eighties.
Picture an eighth-grade student. They have been kicked, punched and pushed. They have been berated with slurs and insults. They fear walking into a classroom because of bullies. The eighth-grader can’t imagine life outside of their classroom walls being any better. Despite what a guidance counselor might say, to the eighth-grader, suicide stops the pain more quickly.
An elderly person can’t walk. They hurt when they wake up, and they hurt when they fall asleep. Their children can’t afford a nursing home. They need their children to feed, clean and possibly wipe them. They feel like a burden. Suicide speeds up the inevitable.
Think of the two students who took their own lives one year after the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. They might have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. They might have suffered from survivor’s guilt. They watched and listened as someone killed 17 people.
The answer should never be suicide. No one should kill themselves.
If someone loses a friend to suicide, comfort them. Support them. Listen to them.
Don’t condemn their lost loved one. Don’t call their loved one selfish.