To Lie About Tragic Death or Not?

Mrs. - posted on 06/25/2011 ( 31 moms have responded )

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As I've shared previously, my daughter's great-grandmother recently took her own life. She was very depressed about not being as healthy and active as she once was previous to a surgery 8 years ago. She was only in her 70's and no where near death's door....just refused to get any further treatment for her diabetes and health issues. She could have managed her physical problems easily if she had not been so wrapped up with her depression and gotten help.

At the funeral, it became very obvious that my fiance's family had chosen to tell the extended family and friends that she had passed from "complication with previous health issues". Everyone was coming up to us saying they were so sorry about her heart issues/diabetes and long standing illness...that at least she was no longer suffering. This came as a surprise to my fiance, my family and me. We weren't sure if we should correct them or just go along with it. We chose the latter.

The very sad part is, it seems that even the immediate family is now speaking in private as if this is the revised, true version of what happened. I'm not sure the denial is healthy for them, but what do I know?

So, I'm wondering, do you believe when a loved one has committed suicide, that the family should hide it from the extended family and friends? Would you lie?

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Mary - posted on 06/26/2011

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I guess I see this a little differently from some of you as to why a family would chose not to be completely upfront about suicide being the cause of death.

It's not that I condone or condemn a family's decision to be misleading when one of their own commits suicide, but I can understand why they might opt to not be totally open about it. A suicide of someone you love is so much more difficult to come to terms with than if they died of something that was not self-inflicted. You must deal with not only the loss of that person, but also with feeling that "you", and the rest of your family and friends, somehow failed them. I think that if someone close to me took their own life, I would have a host of different emotions about it; guilt, anger, sorrow, disbelief, shock, and confusion would all be competing for space in my heart. At the funeral, which is only a few short days after being hit with such a loss, I can see where many families, still reeling, and trying to come to terms with their own conflicting emotions, might decide that they really cannot deal with all of the questions and comments that naturally arise when others learn that the death was a suicide. Things are still so raw and almost surreal at the time of the funeral, that many people are not thinking clearly, and operate in an almost automated mode of self-preservation. The problem is, after a a day or two of avoiding the "truth" while among outsiders, two things happen: 1) It then becomes even more difficult to admit what really occurred, and 2) The falsehood becomes more and more believable to yourself.

Rachael - posted on 06/25/2011

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Firstly, you sound like it was her fault when you said "She could have managed her physical problems easily if she had not been so wrapped up with her depression and gotten help."
For a person who has had depression to the point of wnating to commit suicide (and attempting) and also having other relatives also in the same situation that is HARSH!!!
Secondly to answer the question you asked in the first place. No I would not lie about a tragic death. People need to know how serious depression is and that if not treated correctly and in time it can lead to death.

Krista - posted on 06/25/2011

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I think it's really up to the family -- they have to cope in a way that works for them.

Personally, I would not lie. Depression is too often hushed up and not mentioned, and if (fate forbid) a loved one of mine lost the battle with that particular demon, I would not only not lie about it, but I would make a point of talking about it, and urging anybody else with depression to seek help. Plus, I think that it would feel incredibly lonely to be holding such a sad secret.

Corinne - posted on 06/26/2011

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No, I would not lie. A member of my family decided to take his own life a couple of years ago, it was awful. He had been going through a trial separation, child involved and then - bam! 5 family members died through various illnesses and I guess it tipped him over the edge.
Lying and covering up will always come back to bite you on the butt.

Mrs. - posted on 06/26/2011

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" You must deal with not only the loss of that person, but also with feeling that "you", and the rest of your family and friends, somehow failed them."

Thank you for summing this up, Mary. This is what is happening, I think, the most with the family. That we failed her, to help her....I think that is what the hiding is mostly about.

And yes, I am scared that the falsehood will start to become more and more believable when it is repeated.

Oh and Rachel...

"Firstly, you sound like it was her fault when you said "She could have managed her physical problems easily if she had not been so wrapped up with her depression and gotten help."
For a person who has had depression to the point of wnating to commit suicide (and attempting) and also having other relatives also in the same situation that is HARSH!!!"

I think I worded it in as sensitive a fashion as I could in trying to relay that she did not die of her physical issues, but of her depression....and also of her lifelong issues with never asking for help.

I have been dealing with my own PPD, my grandmother died of a seizure due to her anti-depression meds/shock therapy treatments (back in the day), depression is something I am well versed in and I do believe that she made the choice not to get help. It is a terrible choice, one that I can understand fully though.

So, I'm going to say I respectfully disagree with your conclusion about my post being harsh...

Some depressed people get help and still take their lives. She was not one of them, that's all I was saying.

31 Comments

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Stifler's - posted on 07/01/2011

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I wouldn't want to talk about it but I probably wouldn't make up alternative stories about what happened if someone asked.

[deleted account]

It is sad when someone feels the need to end their life, no matter how old or how unwell. I think your fiance's family just isn't ready to face the cold reality of truth, and have couched the manner of her death in a way that was acceptable to them at this time. It is true after all, to a degree. So leave it go for now, it doesn't mean that you are lying, just allowing the family to grieve and process the facts at their own pace. I'm very sure that God will not judge them harshly for this. God bless.

Tammy - posted on 06/28/2011

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Suicide is a delicate issue and in many families, the "deep dark secret". My grandfather's brother did it back in the 30's due to money problems and for decades, no one knew what really happened to him. I think it was very kind and tactful of your fiance's family to say that the woman passed away from "complication with previous health issues." When you look at it, It is sort of the truth, since that's what lead her to take her own life. Personally, I would leave it at that and walk away.

Debby - posted on 06/28/2011

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I can truly understand where you are coming from!
My grandfather 'attempted' suicide due to his diabetes, resulted in his death when my father was 13. I never knew him and he was treated as a huge secret until my generation 'came of age' in our 30s. It still takes some pushing to get the family (his cousins and all) to talk.
We are also Lutheran and so he wasn't allowed to be buried in the church cemetery! Of course that was in the 50s...
Knowing so much more about disease management and mental health as we do today--we accept what happened: He made the attempt because he WAS ill-mentally. His diabetes was out of control and technically he went into coma. Did he commit suicide? YES. (Did he go to hell?-Bible doesn't say that, it does say don't judge)...
We have been honest with our children, and let them know to tread cautiously around the older relatives....and after 50 years are learning who our grandfather was!
We also have used it as a caution for all the nieces/nephews to keep watch on their own health.

The real shame is that even today, suicide carries old stigmas for the family left behind. And that gets passed on-it is time for it to stop! Gently and with love--we couldn't stop their decision, made of mental illness, but we can celebrate the life outside the illness!
You have my support and if it is not offensive prayers!

[deleted account]

This truly is taboo, its something many feel ashamed of.Many want to keep private.

I completely understand that.I can't possible understand how you or any one who has had to endure a loss to suicide must feel.We all react to death in general very different.So i don't want to down play any one's emotions/feelings.



I do have so much admiration for the countless families etc who have struggled through there heartache and found the courage to speak out.When you can see what a positive effect it has caused you understand only then how very important it is to highlight an issue like this rather than hide it.



Rebecca i am very sorry for your family's loss.I hope in time you can all heal and maybe speak about this.I believe the truth leads to understanding,leads to healing.Again i say this with the up most respect.As you are the ones dealing with the loss.I don't want to sound in sensitive.

Bobbie - posted on 06/27/2011

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It may be the way you are viewing it rather than the way it actually is for them. As I read you posting I thought of the following.
No one wants to speak ill of the dead. The family of your finance were in a jam. I see it as being kind and allowing you and your family to fill in the blanks with the "official cause of death" when and only if you wished to disclose it. She did die from the illnesses because without them she would have wanted to live so in a tender world where loved ones miss and pray for her soul to go to heaven they will glaze over the horrible parts more for the sake of her memory than to be misleading. For example, if she had been a victim of a vicious crime you would not be asking, why aren't they telling everyone that the cause of her death was due to being strangled and beaten. When the loved ones said to each other, she was taken too soon, you would understand why they didn't expand. Her death is no different in that she was taken too soon. Her loss is felt deeply and those left behind harbor all the pain from the loss. Allow them to mourn her with dignity.

Lori - posted on 06/27/2011

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Is it really a lie? You state she had depression, along with her other health issues. Depression is a health issue, so really, she did die of previous health issues. There is still much stigma attached to depression and suicide, stating it this way would be easier than having to give details to a heartbreaking loss of a loved one. Living with depression, especially untreated can be unbearable for those who suffer from it.

~♥Little Miss - posted on 06/27/2011

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Geesh, sorry to hear about your families loss.

Suicide is so taboo, people don't like to talk about it. It can be a let down for so many people, and taken so personnally....even if it wasn't about her, people often feel like "what did I do wrong'" or "what can I do better". I don't see any real problem for them wanting to keep it a private matter.

Constance - posted on 06/27/2011

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Suicide is a touchy subject. When my best friend took her life we didn't let any of the kids even her own children know what happened. We told them she had gotten really sick and she went to be with God. We hve revealed a little bit to the kids but not all of it.

In this case she was an old woman andwas ready to go. If I was faced with having lie about how she truelly die I would do if the family was in agreement. In some ways they didn't lie and neithr did you. She made the decision because she was done dealing with doctors And she did it on her terms because of her illnesses.

ME - posted on 06/26/2011

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I mostly believe that honesty (age-appropriate of course) is the best policy...I sometimes believe that people who believe that they are sparing the feelings of others, are really sparing their own...I understand why they would do this, but I don't know that it is fair or appropriate...This is just my feeling...

Becky - posted on 06/26/2011

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No, I don't think I would lie about it, but I can understand the desire to so. Like others said, to avoid the looks, the whispers, the questions. It is enough for them to deal with it without having to deal with the judgement and questions right now.

[deleted account]

No why lie.Open and honest is the best way to go.I think its wise to acknowledge why she took her life and to talk about it.Not hide it.If i know anything, the truth will always come out.People get hurt etc.Suicide is so big over here unfortunately.We need to talk about it.So many young people are taking there lives.We need to talk about it not hide it.

Its so very important.To the many families who have been left to deal with the loss of a loved one through suicide.There fighting to have this issue heard.There trying to get politicians etc to highlight this serious issue.In my country.So don't hide it.



The many parents here are trying to break the silence around suicide in hopes to at least help others from feeling suicide is there only way.We need to talk about this and hopefully through awareness and being open.Young and old struggling with depression etc can get help so suicide is not an option.Cut down on the many families left coping with a sudden loss of there loved ones.



Also talking about depression to, as many feel ashamed of this also.

Its amazing what just being open, honest and compassionate can do for so many.Break the silence.

Erin - posted on 06/26/2011

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My cousin who was almost like a brother to me, was murdered last year. We told my daughter what happened. Its not the same as a suicide, but it is a tragic death. We explained to her that he wasnt alive anymore and let her lead the discussion from there. She asked why not, we told him it was because he died. She asked what dieing was, and we said it was when you didnt breathe anymore, and you closed your eyes and slept forever peacefully. She asked why he was doing that, and we told her that a troubled person used a gun (she knows how they work to an extent) and it made him die. She asked why, we didnt want to freak her out, so we told her he was a troubled person, and didnt know how to talk about his problems. all of this was over the course of a few months, so it wasnt like a massive sit down conversation that overwhelmed her. Anytime she had a question, we answered it as truthfully, but as tastefully and age appropriate as possible (if there is such a thing as an age appropriate conversation about murder)
Point of the story, lieing about it, to yourself or others, is not a good way to teach about death, or how to deal with it. IMO. Depends on the person inquiring I suppose...if its a 3 year old asking questions maybe sugar coat it a bit so you dont traumatize them, but thats about as far as I would go. If it was somebody I wasnt really close to, asking way to many personal questions, I would maybe give more vague answers, mostly for my own personal comfort.

Jane - posted on 06/25/2011

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The father of some children that were good friends with mine committed suicide a few years ago. However, this was kept very hush-hush because the family was Catholic and were terrified that he would have had to be buried in unhallowed soil. So everyone simply acted as if he died suddenly of some unknown thing, maybe a heart attack.

In our family we wouldn't lie, but most of us are not in churches that consider it a terrible and unforgiveable sin.

[deleted account]

I don't like hiding the truth about suicide. I think it adds to the stigma surrounding mental illness and depression in particular. Not that I want to normalise the act of suicide necessarily, but certainly evading the truth about the depression that led to the act is not helpful for anyone else that may be experiencing similar mental health issues. It would be tragic if anyone was to feel that they were getting lost in their own depression and couldn't talk to their family about it because of the way the family had refused to be open and honest about another family members depression/suicide. Open dialogue and honest communication about mental health is one of the most helpful techniques in managing mental illness. So in answer to the OP, no I would not lie. I do not believe that the family should hide it from family and friends.

Having said that though, I can totally see why some families play the suicide card close to their chest sometimes. As a previous poster mentioned, it is up to the individual circumstances for a family to determine how they can best cope with the tragedy. It is not always easy to nor is it always appropriate to broadcast it or announce publicly when a death is a result of suicide. And as such in that circumstance I would probably not have seen it as my place to correct their interpretation of the death so I would have gone along with it. But within the family I do think it is much more healthy to be honest than to create a taboo about suicide as a result of depression.

Johnny - posted on 06/25/2011

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I have to agree with Sherri. My boyfriend in university's mother committed suicide. She jumped of a bridge here in the city and didn't aim for the water :( At the funeral (Lutheran) all the minister could talk about was the great sin that she had committed and the necessity of her family working to absolve themselves of it and do a vast amount of praying for salvation. My boyfriend walked. He kept saying over and over and over how he wished she'd taken pills or gassed herself so that not everyone would have known the truth. The shaming the family was subjected to was beyond belief.

JuLeah - posted on 06/25/2011

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Hummm ... no, family secrets are never a good idea. To deny the truth is to condem the family to relive it .....

Of course not all facts need to be given based on ones age, but to flat out lie ... no

Katherine - posted on 06/25/2011

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I wouldn't lie. Somehow through the grapevine people will find out. I think that everyone has their own way of coping and they chose this way, maybe they are still in denial?
It's hard to swallow when someone takes their own life.
I personally would just want people to hear it from the source.
My uncle killed himself a year ago last February. It was VERY difficult for our family to decide what to tell people.

We decided in the end the truth was the best thing. He had everything to live for, but lost his wife to cancer years ago and never got over it.
He finally did himself in from the untreated depression.

He actually REALLY did himself in. It was awful.

But you know what? So many people cared about this man, this quiet man is was unreal. And I bet he never knew.

Anyways off topic here. Suicide is a tragedy and sometimes private for the family. So I can see why they didn't want certain people to know.

Jodi - posted on 06/25/2011

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My mother's cousin committed suicide some years ago now. She was suffering extreme depression because her husband cheated on her with her best friend and decided to leave her for the friend. She had a 3 year old little boy, and was in the process of going through a custody battle. SHe just couldn't take it anymore when the little boy started calling her ex best friend "mummy", and she gassed herself in her car.

Her mother is a very religious person, extremely so. And she just couldn't handle the fact that her daughter suicided, it just didn't fit with God's plan. Still, to this day, she believes it was an accident, and that her daughter is out of pain now and with God. To acknowledge it was suicide would have been to acknowledge her daughter committed a final act of sin and would not be able to go to Heaven. I guess her denial has been what has given her peace.

Dana - posted on 06/25/2011

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Yes, I agree it's a cover up from the actual thing that sent her down that road. It's unfortunate. I guess some people just see things as taboo.

I was just talking about something that reminded me of my Uncle. He was gay, he died in the 80's and his partner died a couple years later. - What does that tell you? But, the family still says he died of pneumonia or "lung cancer".

Some people just can't face reality. They think others will judge them. :(

Mrs. - posted on 06/25/2011

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Yep, she took a boat load of pills, was hospitalized for two days, never recovered and then passed.

I suppose you could say she died from complications of her suicide attempt....I can see how it could be twisted into that. I still see it as a cover-up of what really happened.

The main problem for me is, his family has a large problem with depression and usually it is not dealt with. There are several people who are very depressed who see going for help as a weakness. I guess this history explains the tactic of lying about it.
I guess I'm curious if this is a common thing with suicides and if you/your family would do the same.

Dana - posted on 06/25/2011

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Didn't she try to commit suicide, not succeed and then died later of complications from that? Maybe that's why they're saying what they're saying? It's like a "half lie" to them?
Maybe I'm recalling it wrong though.

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