The Blame Game

It’s always sad when somebody dies.

There’s no easy way to say what one feels when it happens. The grievers have no idea how to put into words what they feel and the people around them feel awkward because for all the sincerity of their feelings there is nothing they can really say or do to properly define their feelings.

And of course all of these volatile feelings have a part to play in what happens next. Marriages break, people shut themselves off, others move away, others close in on themselves and never recover… Death is hard to deal with and grief, though a part of life, is a major thing – even more so when the death is a suicide.

I just read about the suicides of a young Ohio couple within days of each other. That got people talking. Everyone agrees it was sad. The families must be inconsolable. There is something inherently unsettling about a young person dying. But, my opinions aside. There is something else I want to discuss.

As a Christian, I believe in a loving God. I believe in the life He gave us to make an impact for His Kingdom and I believe in life after death. All of this is, of course, based on faith. We also believe that because life is a gift from God, suicide is a sin, as is murder.

Unfortunately, this has translated to several human minds in the worst possible way. Some faiths and pastors will not perform a funeral if the deceased committed suicide. Others will not wear a cassock or robes specifically to show disrespect – because they do not believe in suicide. What these people seem to have completely forgotten is this – funerals are not for the dead; they are for the living.

I lost my aunt to cancer last year and the grief was intense. She had helped raise me. I don’t remember a time when she wasn’t around – and then suddenly, that’s all I have. It was a major blow. In some ways, it helped to go to her funeral. I got to see her one last time. I got to remember her with my family and I got to cry. I got to let out all my sorrow and grief and though tears still come to my eyes when I remember her, I’m grateful I got to say goodbye one last time.

That it what a funeral is for.

It is for the living to get to come to terms with the loss. It is for the living to meet their grief head on – to beat their breasts and cry and wail for what is lost. It is a hard time and that is the truth. The funeral is not necessarily for the dead – they are gone, whether they are honoured or not won’t matter so much to them.

So, by all these men and women of the cloth claiming to praise and serve a living, loving God and then turning right around and leaving grieving families to their grief because someone committed suicide drives me up a wall.

Sure, some would say that it is a lesson for the living – that suicide is wrong and it shouldn’t be done.

Here’s the thing, we all know we’re alive for a reason (though said reason may not be clear to all) so of course it’s wrong. But what drove the person to deciding that this was it – life wasn’t worth living any more? Suicide isn’t something someone just wakes up one day and decides to do because they are bored. Suicide isn’t something you can just “wish away” because you know it’s wrong. Once the thought holds, I imagine it can be very hard to let go of.

Suicide is a result of something else, something bigger and more meaningful than just “being sad”. Giving up on life is not something someone just does because it is something to do. Thinking about your family and friends being upset over your loss is something to hold on to and that may stay a few hands but sometimes, the thing that puts pressure on us, the thing that has led us to this one thought as a solution, speaks much louder and clearer than anything else.

So, yes, we can put blame on the dead for leaving. We could as well put blame on the living for not doing enough or doing just enough harm or too much. We can blame whatever circumstances led to it; depression, stress, trauma etc. We can keep shifting this blame around until we are comfortable with the result, but the fact is, none of that stops suicide.

It still happens unless someone stops, looks and listens. I don’t claim to be an expert and I haven’t handled a suicide case. I have learned, however, that there are always signs. It is never a split second decision, but the result of something major going on in one’s Psychology because it always loops back to thought. The thought will spark some behaviour and it will be noted. There will be some depression, anxiety, stress, trauma etc to trigger it. There will be something that has caused this thought to come to be.

Faced with all of that, I don’t see how one could possible start thinking of the implications of a bad funeral or a cleric refusing to perform the ceremony. The end result, I would imagine, is that the pain, the pressure, whatever is upsetting the person in question, will be gone. Weighing the options, the funeral is the last thing on their minds.

But this is just an opinion. I can’t very well force people to perform funerals. I have no say in how things in the world should run. I can’t change everything with one article on a blog.

But I will say this: there is no shame in getting help; your life is yours but your death is for everyone. There is more to a funeral that teaching lessons about suicide being wrong – the family already knows that – and they are not looking for a lecture on morals at that time. There may not be a right thing to say during that time but being there for a grieving family/person is enough.

We should all strive to show a little more compassion to one another and keep that little spark that makes us essentially human.


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