IT TAKES A VILLAGE
Whenever I hear of someone dying by suicide I am quickly hit with a range of emotions that are very difficult to talk about. I have spoken many times about my emotions surrounding the death of a celebrity by suicide and how it pertains to my mental health, but when it takes place right in my own community, well that’s a whole other story which is exactly what happened this past week, twice.
For the majority of my life I have lived in a community that is particularly Jewish and it is also where I knew I wanted to raise my children so that they too would feel the same connection and familiarity as I always had. I also felt that in doing so my kids would feel a sense of belonging, a sense of support and a sense of comfort which I truly believe they do. While at the same time still ensuring that they know there is a whole other world outside of their community and that they learn from a young age the importance of being inclusive, being tolerant and being compassionate towards others.
When someone passes away it is always sad whether or not you know the person intimately or you hear about it through your community as it probably will have a great impact on many people you know. Either way it is difficult sometimes to know just what to say or how to react to their pain and sadness. Now imagine for a moment how you may feel when you learn that their loved one’s death was by suicide and the stigma that follows such a tragic and sudden death.
Their loved ones are not only left with the ‘normal’ pain and sadness related to their grief and loss but they are more than likely also facing a whole other range of emotions too. They are probably undergoing feelings of anger, guilt, shock & confusion as well as feelings of shame, judgment and alienation because of the stigma attached to suicide by society. If their loved one had died from a terminal illness, a tragic accident or even old age, they would not be left with a shadow cast upon their grieving process due to that same stigma.
They say that it takes a village to raise a child which to me is an analogy signifying the true importance of community. It reassures us that no matter what, we will always feel a sense of belonging, a sense of support and a sense of comfort. And when someone is grieving the loss of a loved one by suicide just knowing that they have an entire community assuring them that they do belong, that they are supported and that you are there to comfort them is the perfect way to help take the stigma out of the equation altogether.
But boy do I wish that it was that simple; that I could just snap my fingers and the stigma surrounding mental illness and suicide would be gone forever. To know that I wasn’t being judged or alienated anymore for my illness or that a loved one left behind after a suicide, who is filled with great pain and sadness, wouldn’t have to live with the added emotions of shame and guilt often brought about by society.
I am surrounded by a great community and so is my family, it’s that same great community I have lived in most of my life who have been providing me and my family with a sense of belonging, an overwhelming sense of support and a powerful sense of comfort but like any other community it’s still far from perfect. I can still see the intolerance, I can still hear the indifference and I can still feel the exclusion and it breaks my heart knowing what others have to endure too, which is why so many people choose to suffer in silence and why so many loved ones feel so alone. But it shouldn’t have to feel this way, not when you have an entire village behind you, not if each and every member of your village makes the change together.