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how do you feel about death?

By December 25, 2008 - 10:45pm
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I just saw the movie "Seven Pounds" with Will Smith. It was pretty intense -- not exactly an uplifting holiday movie. But it got me thinking about death, and also about a friend of mine whose nephew died last month. The most troubling thing about his death is that it has yet to be determined if it was a suicide or murder. Do you feel differently about a death when the cause is a suicide versus an accident or murder?

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What a thought-provoking question.

I agree with Susan -- age and circumstances make the biggest differences. And I think that it is the circumstances that forevermore dictate how -- or whether -- those who are left behind can go on.

A family whose loved one was killed in an accident is devastated not only by loss, but also by the knowledge that it was perhaps preventable. My best friend's 11-year-old niece was killed when a tractor-trailer whose brakes had not been maintained slammed into the back of the family's SUV. The family was shattered not just at the loss of an 11-year-old girl's life but also because it was such a stupid stupid accident. Why would a large company do something as heinous as not maintain the brakes of a multi-ton vehicle? In their case, not only did they miss Beth, but there was a constant "what could we have done differently" element that haunted them. If they had eaten for five minutes longer at the Burger King, would that have changed everything? If they had made a left turn at a single corner instead of a right turn, would their daughter and sister still be alive?

A family whose loved one was murdered must be even more devastated, if possible, because not only would they feel every emotion that the accident victim's family felt, they also must deal with the circumstances of the murder, the worry as to whether the person was frightened, and the ordeal of arrests, trials and sentencing before they can even grieve quietly for the person they lost.

That brings us to suicide, and I agree with Susan here -- I'm not sure that the person who commits suicide is, at that point, able to see that people will grieve, mourn and miss them; that their death would be a loss; that they are worthwhile people who deserve happiness. I think at the time a person commits suicide, they are in some ways already lost, and can't find their way back home inside themselves. In some ways, I think at the moment of suicide, people can't see any options left. And they leave behind a group of loved ones who will never understand what they could have done or said to have made a difference.

I think we mourn the natural death of a loved one in small ways forever, just because we miss them. I think that the grief is worse when someone dies in an accident, and even more complicated when it's from murder or suicide, for different reasons. The lingering anxiety and unrest just seems like it would never go away.

December 26, 2008 - 5:22pm
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