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Response to a Suicide

A young adult woman who had participated in RC classes and a support group in my Region* for several years, but had stopped her participation about two years ago, recently committed suicide. I was asked to share some thoughts toward an RC perspective on the situation, and I wrote the following. I’d be interested to hear how others of you have dealt with suicide, and any thoughts you have about useful perspectives.

When someone we know dies, it is always a loss. It is both real in present time and restimulates other deaths and losses. We get to remember good times with the person, our love for him or her, what we treasured about him or her; and we get to grieve the loss. We don’t actually lose any of the good times, connection, and memories. Those are ours forever. What we lose is any additional connecting, sharing, and being together.

It can be even more restimulating and confusing when someone ends his or her own life. We live in an oppressive society—one that hurts people deeply and then keeps the hurts constantly restimulated—and this is always the cause of suicide. Suicide is never the fault of the person who ends his or her life, or of the person’s family, friends, counselors, or associates.

Those of us who knew the person may feel pulled to blame ourselves or to think that if we had only done more, maybe he or she would still be alive. We may need to discharge on that, but we shouldn’t accept such a perspective as appropriate or accurate. It is a mistake for any of us to take responsibility for the completed actions of others. Doing so colludes with the forces of oppression that want us to feel bad about ourselves. Liberation, for ourselves and others, lies in the opposite direction.

Some of us may feel pulled to think that the person who committed suicide was always deeply unhappy; that any love we expressed to or received from him or her wasn’t real; that there was something lacking in the good times or closeness we had. This is not the case. Suicide is a big mistake someone makes in the midst of distress at a moment in time. It does not invalidate the joy, the closeness, the love that we and that person experienced together. We get to trust what we felt during the good times, treasure the connection we had, and be grateful that we got to bring some light into each other’s lives, no matter how great the person’s struggles were. 

Russ Vernon-Jones
Amherst, Massachusetts, USA
Reprinted from the e-mail discussion list for RC teachers

 * A Region is a subdivision of the International RC Community, usually consisting of several Area (local RC Communities).

Last modified: 2020-07-02 14:27:35+00