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Do Taboo Deaths Require Silent Grief? Sterling Sinclair Posts about his Nephew’s Death by Suicide Twice on Facebook and Receives One Condolence Comment.  Is such a Response Expected?  If so, why? October 24, 2017

Do Taboo Deaths Require Silent Grief? Sterling Sinclair Posts about his Nephew’s Death by Suicide Twice on Facebook and Receives One Condolence Comment. October 24, 2017  
  

To be fair, my post was a comment with a link to the following post regarding both mention of my nephew’s death and the topic of suicide.  It wasn’t a “I’m feeling down today because I miss him” post, which would have invited a supportive response.  I wrote the post in such a way because I felt that maybe he may be able to save a life out there.  

Link: to the Blog Post Regarding Suicide and the Death of Sterling’s Nephew
I have a Master of Divinity from Victoria University and the University of Toronto. I concentrated my studies and training on counselling – primarily grief/death & dying/infirm/hospice.  

Taboo topics were seldom raised in the university classrooms but were common concerns during my training. The secret pain people carried became even more so prevalent as the people I visited grew older or faced their own approaching death. 

One of the most powerful lessons that I learned was that as we face our own death, we begin to purge ourselves from our guilt, negative perceptions, awful memories, hate, and more than anything else – suppressed grief. 

Before we die, we grieve.

As for accidental death, it is difficult to confirm this pre-death grieving process but if we take a moment and reel back the days before our loved one died by accident, we often recall him/her/they making grief and/or other purge related statements.  

Sometimes, we recall the person’s behaviour changing in ways indicative of the purge.  

We more often than not discount or let the statements and behaviours flow on by. We all do. If you did and missed the signs, you are not alone. With no context – without knowing that an accident is to happen – we simply miss the clues. We must not beat ourselves up if this happened to us.  

When I began offering private spiritual sessions (once I hung up my collar) I was shocked to find the extent of secret pain people carried. I have sat with over 2000 people and well over 80% of them carried this grief. In the cases whereby discussion revolved around the topic, almost all of the people were uplifted after purging or revealing the pain that had been long hidden. 

The most traumatizing pain appeared to be related to taboo causes of death. They were revealed in this decreasing magnitude of silence.

1/ terminating the life of one’s own child (death by accident, termination of pregnancy including miscarriage and abortion, and not noticing the signs that could have possibly stopped the death).

2/ suicide

3/ overdose or laced drug

4/ alcoholism

5/ abuse

6/ murder

So it is no wonder that my posts regarding suicide and the anniversary of my nephew’s death were met with one condolence comment. 

One may be surprised by this list but it appeared in this order over and over again. With that said, many women have argued that they have no grief due to abortion. I have been in enough sessions to witness this to be untrue with the majority of my clients who have terminated their pregnancies. It is for this reason that such death (again considered not death by some because they hold the opinion that an unborn child is not alive), is one that involved suppressed grief. I don’t want to side rail this post with the topic of abortion but I felt that I needed to address the controversy.

Nonetheless, we as a culture of selective public grieving pick and choose what is okay and not okay to grieve over. We have our limits to the type and amount of pain that we can handle. We don’t want to hurt other people’s feelings and we don’t want to publicly portray ourselves as monsters, weak, frail, neglectful, bad, people.  

Many of us are unwilling to mention a topic of suicide and when we do, we wash ourselves clean of any guilt or wrongdoing by posting “get help” phone lines and sharing mental health posts. No matter how we paint the picture, if our loved one dies, we deal with it. No matter the level of pain and loss, we experience pain and loss. 

The silence regarding these taboo deaths needs to stop. They need to be pulled out of our closets and thrown into the centre of the street. In so doing, we can more openly support each other. The silence and secrecy and suppression of our grief, feeds debilitating and self-deprecating thoughts. Our behaviours toward others, especially our loved ones is altered, and far too often altered negatively.   

I knew a man who accidentally ran over his child at a construction site.  He never remembered doing it.   He never could find his way again. Everyone suffered. It was almost never spoken of as the years passed. He grieved alone at night, in the truck driving to work, and in prayer. He built a wall around himself and yet at nighttime when alone, he cried himself to sleep for many years. 

I know a woman whose father shot off his head.  She was a young woman with children and young siblings. She still cannot remove from her memory of cleaning up the remains of her parent. She wanted to do so quickly so that her family would not have to see it too. She changed that day, so too likely her siblings and extended family. She felt that she needed to be strong and silent. She turned to alcoholism and she took her grief-fed-pain and turned it into abusive anger. Only a few people knew of the extent of her pain. Now that she grows older, the nightmares are visiting and interrupting her sleep. She even sleeps in another room from her husband because she doesn’t want him to witness these unconscious expressions of her secrets.

We all deal with death in our own ways. Most of the time, we need to keep on getting on. We need to survive and we need to care for our surviving loved ones. We need to keep moving forward. Let’s face it, getting back to everyday, regular activities can be good medicine but not at the expense of our grief.  

I am kind of hurt that only one friend gave their condolences on Facebook when I posted, but I understand any of the reasons why they may not have wanted to do so.  

  

With that said, I think some friends expressed their condolences by “liking” the post.  Also, I felt heard, however, because some friends shared the post.  It was very brave of them to do so because if just mentioning grieving due to one of these taboo ways to die, then posting about it on social media is waaaaaaaay taboo.  
The point that I wanted to make with this blog post is that whether a friend’s loved one died of a long life struggling with cancer or whether a friend’s loved one died due to suicide, the friend is still grieving over the death of their loved one.  
If we are to remove the taboo label off of certain causes of death, we must as a society view death as death no matter how someone dies. In so doing, we may more openly support each other as we, in our own ways, grieve over the deaths of our loved ones. 
Let go of the shackles of silence.  
We can move beyond this, 

S

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