Thursday, February 27, 2014

POTUS Does It & So Should You: Condolence After a Suicide

We look to leaders for direction, strategy and goals, project reviews and (dis)approvals. Sometimes, our leaders provide inspiration ... and sometimes they are called upon to provide sympathy. It is not a task to be delegated, as the President of the United States (POTUS) recognizes.

The circumstance of the loss--even suicide, does not discount the need for sympathy.

In 2011, President Barack Obama reversed a long-standing Department of Defense policy of not sending condolence to families of soldiers who commit suicide during deployment. To remove the stigma associated with the unseen wounds of war, the President set the example of staying with the core concepts of why we write condolence notes:

appreciation for the life of the person
"I am deeply grateful for the service of all our men and women in uniform, and grieve for the loss of those who suffer from the wounds of war - seen and unseen...these Americans served our nation bravely. They didn't die because they were weak."
 Have you had a personal experience with a death by suicide? Have you attended a funeral for someone who took their own life? How do you feel when you read of suicides among our troops?

The decision to commit suicide may be made when a person cannot see options or paths out of a painful situation; it is a personal decision

Unfortunately, life saving intervention may not come in time. Bonnie Carroll, president and founder of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors shares that every day, three to four people contact the program, seeking help and support in coping with the death by suicide of a loved one who served in the Armed Forces.  

Carroll reports that at least ten people who are left behind will be significantly impacted by the death! 
"People experiencing a traumatic, violent and unexpected loss are at higher risk for anxiety, depression, insomnia and many other issues.(source)

Survivors of suicide have great need of compassionate, non-judgmental words.

Tips for your condolence:

  • Acknowledge the shock of the "sudden death" "I had to read the email twice to comprehend that Joe is gone..."
  • Express your personal sense of loss "Joe's courage inspired me so many times, when I was faced with a difficult task..."
  • Acknowledge a normal life, once lived: share a memory/tell a story "I'll never forget our years together on the football team. Joe personally asked local businesses to donate toward our expenses--even signing up Gino's Diner..."
  • Recognize the value of family "You guys were so important to Joe; teaching him stuff, and being there for the important things, like..."
This post is dedicated to TAPS and the warmth they extend to the families of fallen heroes. Their website is loaded with resources, helpful to military and non-military families. Please visit it and learn more about life after loss by suicide.

Thanks for caring!  

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