Monday, 17 March 2014

Sure, suicide is a delicate topic, but if the big stuff is going on it's okay to talk about it

I'm going to preface this with a big "this-might-not-be-right-for-you-but-it-was-right-for-us" speech. I'll get to the speech later. First the story.

So when I was a baby my first mum commit suicide. I've always had two mum's and it gets mighty confusing at times. But bear with me. And no I'm not going to discuss suicide as a concept. She had her reasons and whether or not her decision was "right" (for lack of a better word) is not the topic of this post.

A while back I was having an enormous debate (nah, I'll call it as it was - it was a flat out fight) with a couple of people about whether it's okay to tell kids sneaky white ones in the hopes that there's a "better time" to tell them the truth.

And I don't want to say "lies". Honesty is often a sliding scale and often a question of degree. (Perfect example being Santa.) It's about personal choice I guess - talking about Santa I mean, or whatever.

So back to the fight. Someone I knew told their child a big sneaky white one about where babies come from. My personal view at the time (although completely irrelevant as it wasn't my child) was that it was completely appropriate for them to tell the child where babies actually come from in an age appropriate way. At that same age I well knew all about it from my folks and had a well balanced view of the word "vagina".

Mind you I do come from a fairly open family where there isn't a lot we don't talk about. And some people find that awfully confronting. That's okay too, like I said. It works for us.

Anyhow. Back to the fight.

So the person didn't want to tell the child just in case the child wasn't ready. But the child was asking some pretty specific questions about what was what - and I reckon that signifies some type of readiness but the person disagreed.

The discussion led to other white ones we tell our kids and someone ventured a story about a person who'd recently died (by committing suicide) and no one told the children. They weren't young children either, they were definitely old enough to understand. They were well into their teens.

I tried to objectively voice my view on the topic. Something quite hard to do when you're as choked by emotion as I was.

I was livid, is probably a better way to describe it. In that protective way you get when you can identify with someone.

See here's the thing. And again. It worked for us. And maybe it's not right and I'll never know the answer to that for sure. It's just something I feel pretty passionate about.

Suicide sucks. Death sucks too. (They're not the things I'm referring to feeling passionate about, by the way.)

Either way - it's going to suck for the kids. For me, growing up, I just cannot pinpoint a moment in time where I "found out my mum killed herself". I just can't remember ever being told. And that's coz I just always knew. My Dad decided pretty early on that he would always be as honest with me as possible. That kids deserve answers as much as anyone else. And you can only earn the respect of a child by showing respect. That's true of anyone, I suppose.

Within reason, and there are sensitive and age appropriate ways to approach the giving of the answers, I cannot think of a good reason to not tell a child stuff they should know. Sure it's not always appropriate to give them a blow by blow description of everything. I'm talking about the big stuff, like how their parent has died...well, for me it's hard to understand how you'd keep that from anyone. Let alone the child of the deceased.

My theory for this?

It's simple.

My Dad made the right decision with me. Growing up and living with a crappy thing like your mum dying (let alone because she wanted to) - it sucked enough on its own. Then I try to imagine what it would have been like, being sat down on my 18th birthday (or whatever) and being told the truth of what had happened.

I'd have two things to be upset about then, instead of one. Or maybe even three things. I'd be upset that she had commit suicide. Plus I'd be upset about not being told. And very possibly I'd feel angry that I might have been the only one that didn't know.

And really, whether or not I was aware of how she died was beside the point. She was gone. Either way. Don't get me wrong, there were pieces of the puzzle I had to get later on. But the big conceptual stuff was always there. And if I asked a question out-right it always got answered. Even if sometimes (oh so rarely) the answer was "hmm I don't think I'm ready to talk about that yet". More often it was more along the lines of "hmm lemme have a think for a sec..." then an age appropriate way to explain something.

You might ask then if it's beside the point how she died why did I need to know? Well for me that's an easy one too. It's what happened. It was the truth of the matter - and even though knowing it wouldn't bring her back, it was an understanding of the way things were and why they were that way.

I often tell my parents (Dad got remarried to my second Mum) that they rock for the approach they took with me and my sis.

I'm really glad my parents told us stuff.

Although there was the time I was mortified about the description my Mum (second Mum, obviously) gave to my sister about where babies came from. Complete with diagrams drawn in the dirt with a stick. My sister was pretty little at the time but I was old enough to feel very embarrassed.

But you know, being embarrassed is also part of life.

Side note. Kids are really smart. They have this ability to often see through the bullsh!t and they're not cynical yet and haven't been conditioned about the reasons behind the white ones. Most of them are just super honest (which often makes for hilarious stories). Kids are people. Just slightly smaller and less experienced. 

No comments:

Post a Comment