Where my last post left off a few days ago, I was looking around for a Loss Survivor's Support Group, and not coming up super happy with who was around and what they seemed to be about. Well, I live near NYC, so surely there must be a group I can stand somewhere around here, so I kept looking. I do think that, in theory, finding a support group is a good idea. But it has to be one compatible with your personal outlook. It makes me really sad that I found a lot more of the same things that had squicked me out in my initial search.
A Heavy Dependence on Religion
Even among suicide survivors, a lot of the classic platitudes about grief are in play: "They're in a better place; they're with God now." This doesn't work for me. I grew up Catholic. A hundred years ago, they denied funeral mass & rites to suicides and refused to bury them in consecrated ground. I was about 12 when I discovered this (along with how my father died. Thanks for waiting four years, mom. The internet needs a sarcasm font, because I still resent that, even though she's been gone 15 years herself.) and let me tell you, the family doesn't need more reminders of how badly their loved one fucked up. You can be sure they already know.
While the new(er. The Church is pretty old. Anything they've adopted in the past 100 years can be considered a modern thought) Catholic dogma on suicides attempts to teach pity and encourages its members to examine the pain that led to the circumstance, I don't trust them to actually do it. So many priests I've met seem like transplants from an older mindset. I've heard plenty of priests disagree with Pope John-Paul II - who I really respected for trying to bring the church into a more modern place - and even a few disagree with Benedict before I decided that their organization wasn't going to work for or with me. I mean, even now, every priest I read on suicide likes to tell me how lucky I am to be able to have a normal funeral for this shameful death. Fuck that out loud. I feel all kinds of things about Dan's death, and there's even plenty of guilt in the mix for not catching his attempts to interact with me on facebook the week before he died. I'm not about to let some dudes in uncomfortable chairs tell me I should feel shame, too. I have quite enough on my feelings plate.
Died By Suicide
I don't like words that hide the truth. I don't words that conceal reality. I don't like euphemisms, or euphemistic language. And American English is loaded with euphemisms. Cause Americans have a lot of trouble dealing with reality. Americans have trouble facing the truth, so they invent the kind of a soft language to protest themselves from it.
That's part of George Carlin's rant on turning "Shell Shock" into PTSD. Carlin was a hell of a wordsmith. If you haven't seen this rant, go, click. I can wait a minute. I'm using his point anyway.
Most groups encourage that you use the phrase "died by suicide" instead of "committed suicide" or "killed himself." It makes my brother sound like a victim, which is a thing. I don't totally object to viewing him as a victim— it provides a good framework for compassion toward those who are stalked by the big, black dog— victims of depression. But the real victims of a death are the living, I promise you. The dead can only be victims of the moments before.
"Died by suicide" is so fucking passive. Like suicide came and snatched him up one day. I know it feels like that, but it didn't happen that way. And every time I've read it, it feels like a lie. Even though on its face it's trying to tell the truth plainly. Also, I discovered that I can't use it as a speaking term— I tried it on in the bathroom a few times and couldn't do it without making a face full of disgust— that has everything to do with the phrase and little to do with my brother. No one needs to read shit that isn't there into the situation.
The thing is, I have to live with the fact that my little brother took his own life. The phrase "died by suicide" takes all action out of the statement and minimizes this huge thing that I and every other suicide loss survivor have to deal with. Saying it differently doesn't make it go away, it just makes it harder to talk about. It still shames the event. There is a vast world of nuance between assigning responsibilities to actions and blame. We can't discount that this person— however swayed by chemicals in their brain or unable to fully consider consequences they were— was still making decisions— however bad and stupid the decisions were— and taking actions that had a massive impact on the people around them. It's completely wrong to minimize that.
Especially when you consider that such passive phrasing makes it a lot easier to think of this as a freak accident or a tragedy inflicted on you from the outside world. A lot of the psych materials I've been reading talk about the creation of "family myths" after a suicide, where the family allows a fictional narrative to take the place of the actual truth in the story. This doesn't usually go well, especially for small children. I wasn't 8 yet when my father died, and I knew damn well that everyone was lying to me about how. You can pinpoint when I found out by looking at my elementary school report cards: straight A's that drop down to 4 C's and an F during 5th grade. I stopped trying at anything for a little while while I readjusted myself.
Family myths are destructive and they create a big sack of Shit That Must Be Dealt With that life will dump on you later. Inconveniently. I don't see a lot of difference between lying to yourself that way and lying to yourself by omission.