Committed Suicide or Died by Suicide?

When I hear the phrase committed suicide I cringe at those words. It always sounds to me like someone has committed a crime. Not so many years ago in Canada it was a criminal offence to take your own life. In some states in the U. S. suicide is still a crime. I have met parents who have been shattered by the death of their child by suicide and to add insult to injury their dead child was charged with a criminal offence after their death.

Our 13-year-old son Greg died by suicide on January 25, 1990, so I have had a lot of time to come to terms with and educate myself around the subject of suicide. When a person has cancer and it is not diagnosed or treated they die of cancer. When a person has depression or a mental illness and it is not treated they sometimes go on to die by suicide. They were in horrific indescribable pain and suffered beyond our comprehension and now we want to persecute them further by suggesting that they committed a crime. Suicide is not about dying; it is about ending the pain.

My grief journey has introduced me to many many survivors of suicide ~ parents, siblings, grandparents, spouses, other relatives and friends. The ripple effect is not like any other death. The “what ifs, if only’s, what did I miss, why didn’t I see that behavior as suicidal?” and on and on. When a survivor, through story telling and reminiscing, starts to introduce me to the person who died, there are so many similarities ~ overly sensitive, intelligent, compassionate and so on. They believe they are a burden to those around them and we will be better off if they are gone.

What I also came to understand was when we are physically tired from a hard day’s work, a short nap or a shower will refresh, when we are mentally tired nothing helps to refresh us. For those that are depressed and suicidal, they are just tired and exhausted all the time ~ there is no apparent relief from the pain and exhaustion. They just barely make it through each day and night and one day they don’t have the strength to carry on. When I hear suicide described as a cowardly act I shake my head. The person who is suffering has been so brave to live with their pain for as long as they have; we have to find them courageous at some level for doing that. To think about the final act of taking ones own life, I believe is an act of desperation.

For me this is not about being politically correct, it is about honoring the family and the person who died by saying “Died by suicide”. They were in pain and they died and we loved them and will always miss them.

Linda Woods
written ~January 2002