I just got a newsletter from the suicide bereavement group my sister and I attended last summer. The statistics posted below make me sad. I know that they’re right and I have felt the immense difference between the types of “compassion” shown to families where the death is accidental or natural as compared to drug overdose or suicide. This last year, my father died. The same week, two of my cousins died too. One was an alcoholic and no one seemed very upset by his death. His brother, on the other hand, died of complications from pneumonia. His death was a shock and was far more devastating to the family than the cousin who died of an alcoholic related disease. Why? Both were my cousins. Both were loved. Both had virtually the same background. Neither were expected to die any time soon. Why did everyone seem sort of relieved that Kevin died, but sad that Kenny did?
It just brings up so many bad feelings about the way my family and I were treated after Ty’s death. Especially at work. We weren’t allowed to grieve. People we thought were our friends accused us of causing Tyrel’s death by either inattention, by being “bad examples” due to our own mental illnesses and all sorts of other ridiculous, but incredibly hurtful things. Voyeuristic vultures wanted to hear every detail. I just recently had someone ask me if Ty died as the result of autoerotic asphyxiation. I just stared at them for a long moment then said “No. ‘He killed himself’ doesn’t mean he died accidentally trying to get off.” Dumbass, but sadly all too common.
When another nephew’s friend died from a congenital heart defect while they were staying at the family’s cabin with another friend, the rumor-mill ran rampant. Three boys alone in an out of the way cabin…clearly they were using drugs and one had ODed. It’s such bullshit that it makes me furious. When the autopsy results came back, it showed what we’d known all along. Jesse had no drugs in his system. The other boys were tested by the police the day that Jesse died, and had neither drugs nor alcohol in their systems but the rumors continued. I’m tired of people being so judgmental. Even if Jesse had died of an overdose, should being a normal kid wanting to try something new be a death sentence? I don’t believe so. Ok onto the study results before my head explodes from fury induced high blood pressure.
“In this study, the authors compared and contrasted 571 parents who had lost children by various causes— suicide, drug-related deaths, accidental deaths and natural causes in terms of their grief difficulties, post-traumatic stress and other mental health problems and perceived social stigma. In comparing parents whose children died by suicide or drug-related death with those whose children died of accidents or natural causes, the suicide and drug-related death survivors had appreciably more difficulty in grief and with poor mental health. The authors conclude that powerful social stigma against drug use and mental illness remains a pervasive challenge for these parents as they experience less compassionate responses from others following their losses.”
“Parental Grief After a Child’s Drug Death Compared to Other Death Causes: Investigating a
Greatly Neglected Bereavement Population.” By William Feigelman, John R. Jordan &
Bernard S. Gorman, Omega, 2011, Vol 63 (4), p. 219-316.