Despite the efforts to fight the stigma associated with death by suicide, the reality is that there remains in the eyes of many people a stigma attached to this manner of death. The existence of a persistent stigma associated with suicide in some quarters makes dealing with this type of death especially hard on surviving family members and other loved ones.
Words Matter When Talking About Death by Suicide
A strong argument can be made that one of the reasons a stigma attaches to a death by suicide is because of the words people have used to describe this type of life-ending event. The most commonly used labels used on death by suicide in the United States in decades gone by up to even today include:
- Killed himself or killed herself
- Committed suicide
- Took his life or took her life
Perhaps one of these monikers is better than the other. However, none of them really are appropriate when it comes to describing a death by suicide.
Take for example the term committed suicide. The phrase committed suicide stems from a time period in which suicide was the result of some sort of moral shortcoming. Sadly, there are still people in our society that have an inappropriate understanding of death by suicide. Fortunately, this is becoming an ever-shrinking cohort if ill-informed individuals.
There are a couple of generally accepted and appropriate terms for this this type of death at this juncture in time:
- Death by suicide or died by suicide
- Completed suicide
As vocabulary associated with death by suicide has changed, so has the understanding of people to this manner of dying. The term death by suicide lacks the same shameful connotation that arguably attached to a phrase like committed suicide or killed him or her self.
Escaping Shaming Has Been a Challenge
The reality is that members of the so-called general public aren’t the only ones who are shame targets when it comes to a death by suicide of someone close to them, particularly a family member. Consider for a moment the death by suicide of fashion designer and icon Kate Spade. Rather that allow Ms. Spade the ability to rest in peace, rather than allow her family to mourn and grieve her passing, shaming abounded. This could be found everywhere from media stories to statements made by an estranged member of Ms. Spade’s family (not her husband, by the way).
The point in mentioning these things to a reader of this article is to let you understand:
- Shame associated with suicide is somewhat retreating and is not as prevalent today as it was even a decade ago
- If you feel ashamed because you lost a loved one to a suicide death, you are not alone
- Finally, you absolutely do not need to be ashamed for your loved one or for yourself when it comes to the aftermath of a death by suicide
Professional Assistance and Support and Dealing With Suicide Shame
As a survivor of suicide, if you find yourself struggling with a sense of shame, you may find it difficult to grieve the loss of a loved one. As was said a moment ago, you are not alone if this is what is going on in your life at the moment.
Not only are their fellow survivors of suicide death struggling with what you are dealing with but there are also skilled, compassionate, experienced professionals who can assist you in addressing feelings of shame and working through your grief. There are therapists and counselors who specialize in assisting people like you who are survivors of suicide.
Suicide Survivors Support Groups
Beyond therapists and counselors who work with people dealing with suicide loss, there are also suicide survivor support groups. Some of these support groups are affiliated with a national network. Other support groups are more ad hoc local gatherings. In either case, you may be well-served identifying such a support group.
In the digital age, you no longer need worry if you don’t live in a larger community that has an active suicide survivors support group. Rather, on any given day you can now access a meaningful suicide survivors support group via the internet.
In summary, Brene Brown has stated that shame needs three things to grow exponentially in our lives:
As we have discussed in this article, these three elements of shame are being taken on rather head-on in recent times as it relates to suicide survivors and people grieving the loss of a loved one through a death by suicide. There certainly has been notable progress in recent years in taking on the idea of shame associated with suicide. There is no reason not to believe that even further progress will be made in the coming years.