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Posts Tagged ‘silence of suicide bereavement’

“It is difficult for suicide survivors to express their thoughts after a suicide,” write Christopher Lukas and Henry Seiden. “In contrast to the aftermath of ‘normal’ deaths, friends and relatives often don’t want to talk about the events surrounding a suicide. In fact, many people don’t want to admit that the death was a suicide….[One reason for this unwillingness] is surely that family members don’t want to expose the blame and guilt they feel: the blame they feel toward other family members, the guilt they feel about themselves” (Silent Grief: Living in the Wake of Suicide, pp.111-112).

To Lukas and Seiden, silence becomes the “Grand Bargain” following suicide that, while apparently addressing the problem of blame and guilt, also compounds the impact of suicide and damages the grieving process. “Silence,” they state, “is an enemy.” (pp. 112-113).

With everyone in my family, there was never any doubt about the cause of Mary’s death. It was called “suicide” from the first hour and not muddied by the words “accidental overdose.” We took hold of the bitter reality together, and no energy went toward maintaining the illusion that Mary died other than self-destructively.

That isn’t to say there was no family silence over the years; silence prevailed. Whenever family members came together during the holidays or for birthdays, there was silence about Mary but also gratitude–however muted–for the moment we were sharing. Far from being a blame-suppressing ploy, I think our silence was a sign of respect for deeply shared sorrow.

Might a family gathering designed for the disclosure of thoughts and feelings have helped? Possibly. Might it have soothed my mother and me to sit down and weep together? Probably a little. But we were all suicide survivors, all devastated, all trying to make it through the day. The kind of extensive talking and listening I needed–therapy, by another name–members of my family couldn’t be expected to provide. And I never thought a “Grand Bargain” had anything to do with that.

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