Words

One of the more common discussion topics I’ve seen among survivors of suicides is word choices. There’s a very big push-back against phrases like ‘committed suicide,’ because people commit crimes, so it imparts the connotation of being a negative thing. When you commit a crime (or a sin, if that’s something you believe), the implication is that you had a choice not to do so. You could have NOT committed it. The ‘preferred’ phrase is ‘died by suicide’ or ‘died of suicide,’ which tends to be more passive. People die of cancer, or disease or old age. They don’t have control over whether they die or not.

I have mixed feelings about that particular argument. I’m not of the mindset that suicide is a sin. I don’t think it’s intrinsically evil. But I also don’t think it’s a good thing. I think the outcome is negative. So I have come┬áto avoid both those terms in favor of saying that Ian killed himself. In my head, at least, that phrasing leaves the interpretation of good/evil and┬áchoice to the hearer/reader. Because there are days when I feel like, yes Ian died of depression. That the disease won, and he didn’t have a chance. Then there are other days that I think of all the options for help that he passed up, and that in a way, it WAS a choice.

Other word choice based discussions have revolved around the use of the words dead, death, and died. Some people find them too harsh. Too blunt. Too hard to accept. They prefer things like passed away, no longer with us, or moved on. I can understand that. It’s hard to cope with, and why would you keep hitting that wound? For me, though, I prefer the blunt phrasing. I prefer not to prevaricate. I feel like if I were to not face it head on in my word choice, it would be me not being willing to face the facts. I have to say, though, that I don’t feel that way about anyone else. It’s a profoundly personal choice, and I do feel like every time I address this particular topic so bluntly, I am poking that wound, and it hurts. I like feeling that pain. It makes me sure that I’m not avoiding it. Other people may not need that reassurance.

I’m always interested to hear what other people feel about various words, so if you have experiences, comment.

Written 1/7/2014

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