I Absolutely Cannot Call Suicide “Selfish”

I get it.

I used to call suicide selfish.

Suicide breaks so many hearts and is a pain that is anything but temporary.

The pain will be lasting.

The pain will transcend emotion and will cause physical exhaustion.

The pain will compound with the questions of “didn’t they know I loved them?”

“what could I have done differently?” and “how could they do this to me?” or, in the cases of families, “how could they do this to us?”

All of these questions are indisputably fair and should be met with fierce compassion. Given the grief that suicide causes and the lifelong burdens of self-questioning that follows, it understandably makes one go on the defensive and describe the deceased as “selfish.”

“They knew the pain it would cause me/us.”

“They knew that I/we relied on them.”

“They, they, they…” and, again, while it is certainly understandable to react this way- we’re putting all the blame on the deceased without understanding where they were coming from.

"How could they be coming from any position that isn't selfish!?"

Yup, I get it.

Disclaimer: I am not a professional counselor in any respect. I cannot speak with authority on the matter of suicide. I am simply doing my part to help navigate this conversation in hopes to bring some comfort to those hurting, and perhaps supply some preventative measures to avoid saying the wrong thing to those impacted by suicide.

Like I said, I used to call suicide selfish.

But then I started asking honest questions about it and one particular question stood out: what do they have to gain? What does anyone have to gain in killing themselves?

It should be noted that every answer to the question of "why" falls within the shadow of mental illness. Was their decision to kill themselves rational? The answer is always no, but when reason is saturated in mental illness, it may be very rational, in the moment, to the person taking their life.

If we focus on suicide being selfish, we fundamentally misidentify the reason/cause for suicide and thus will misidentify how to prevent it.

Selfishness involves pride and self-worth over the consideration of others. But one must be coherent to have these feelings.

So the problem with calling suicide selfish is that it assumes the complete coherency of the deceased. But that is NOT what is going through someone’s mind when they take their life. To identify the deceased as selfish is to undercut the reality of their state of mind- which is not the coherent, healthy mind of that of the grieving.

That said, let's return to the question above: what does one have to gain in killing themselves?

The answer to them is everything. Because everything to them is only found in death- absence from the haunting, grief-saturating burden of depression. Even though they are loved– inarguably loved, and even though they know so in general, they won't always know it.

To the deceased, suicide is the result of manipulation by a numbing form of depression that has silenced the reality that they are loved.

I wish I had better answers than what I've provided. I wish I had an answer to how we fix suicide. I don't know. Obviously we can do better at loving people, but even the most loved people often surprise us. I can say "keep the conversation going" but the conversation is going and has been going. In all transparency, I have fear. We read blogs for answers and wisdom. Well, at this point in my entry I'm going to say that I'm searching, too. I'm scared that people I don't know are suffering are, in fact, suffering. I don't want to be surprised.

But if all I can offer is to recommend we not disgrace the deceased with disparaging identities like "selfish" then perhaps there can be a solid relationship between us and the would-be victims of suicide. Perhaps this one component to the overall conversation of suicide can cause would-be victims to open up more, and provide others an opportunity to extend the chance of rescue.

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