Why Bother Telling the Truth About Suicide?

Why Bother Telling the Truth About Suicide?

Recently, a friend called to tell me the sad news that she’d lost her father to suicide. Knowing she has a preteen son, I wondered if she’d tell him the truth about his grandpa’s death. Thankfully, she did. 

Telling the Truth

Telling a child the truth about a relative’s death by suicide is not easy. Being sensitive to their age is of course paramount, but eventually, they will want to know the story behind the death of the one they knew and loved. Speaking from experience, keeping someone’s death by suicide a secret only adds layers to an already complex and confusing set of circumstances. Eventually, children grow into adults and will stumble upon the truth for themselves. Then they will wonder why no one ever told them the truth.

I am not sure what motivated my mother to mute the truth of my father’s death by suicide from me. She revealed the sad ending of our dad’s life to my three oldest siblings, but lied to the rest of us. In so doing, she allowed our imagination to fill in the blanks. 

Before I heard the real story behind my dad’s death, I’d conjured other fanciful scenarios. First, I envisioned Dad leaving Mom because she’d had an affair. I thought that perhaps he was still alive and just living somewhere else. Another fantasy included mom’s jealous lover murdering my father. These myths filled the void until a few days after his death when I had the chance to ask an older sister to tell me the truth. 

Withholding factual details only constrained my grief process, limited my opportunity to voice my grief, made me feel as though I was an anomaly and created a chasm of distrust between my mother and me. Telling the truth is not easy, but lying only encumbers something that is already  awkward and difficult.

My friend now carries her own load of grief along with a huge responsibility. Her responses to her father’s death by suicide will teach her son how to grieve when there is a loss by suicide. He will be watching her and he will notice.

Why bother telling the truth about suicide? Although hearing the truth is painful, it is better than living a fantasy.

Why Bother Remembering Our Religious Upbringing?

Why Bother Remembering Our Religious Upbringing? 

My parents were both raised Catholics, and they in turn raised my siblings and me in the same religion. As infants, we were all baptized, and later, attended parochial school where we received instruction for the sacraments; confession, communion, and confirmation. Like all the other eight-year-old, while in second grade, I underwent training for my first confession before making my first communion. 

    Confession

I recall sitting in the large classroom with the other thirty or so other second grade classmates of mine trying hard to keep my eyes on the teacher, a nun wearing the traditional black robe and habit which framed her white wrinkly face.  She explained the doctrine of sin, but I just did not see how it applied to me. Although I had seen my oldest brother get angry and cuss, I could not recall any of my own offenses. I’d never been spanked, scolded or sent to my room without dinner. I didn’t whine, complain or talk back to my parents, let alone any other adult. My siblings had dubbed me the “angel” of the family because I never did anything wrong. 

Evidently, even though my comprehension of this particular doctrine was little to none, I was not exempt from making my first confession.  The next morning, I followed my classmates  over to the church and waited in line to make my first confession. I stood with my hands folded in front of me and chewed on my lower lip. Even the boys, normally fidgety and giving everyone goofy looks, appeared solemn and serious.  Then it was my turn. I stepped inside the confessional and closed the door quietly behind. Kneeling down, I waited. Finally, I heard a little wooden panel slide open and a deep voice spoke, “What sins do you have to confess, my child?” 

Making the sign of the cross and remembering my part I said, “Bless me father, for I have sinned and this is my first confession.”

“What are your sins?” he asked.

Then, I froze. We had not practiced this part of the ceremony and the only sins I knew of were those of my brother. “I got mad and cursed,” I stammered. The unseen man on the other side of the panel gave me my penance, “Say three Hail Marys, and go in peace.”

I left the confessional and made my way to the nearest pew to say my three Hail Marys. All the while I wondered if these prayers would cover the lie I’d just told or the sins of my brother.  

Though I never became a devout Catholic like my parents, the religious upbringing they provided me with, planted two important concepts into my young life. First, there is Someone greater than me and secondly, we all need forgiveness even if don’t think we do. 

Why bother remembering our religious upbringing? It is worth recalling our religious upbringing because more than likely, there is a seed of truth to be nurtured.