If we believe that the individual is responsible for his actions, then why do we regard suicide as bad and detestable?
An explanation may be found in Simone de Beauvoir’s The Mandarins. In this work of the author of The Second Sex, one of the protagonists, Anne Dubreuilh, decides to kill herself to escape the pain and emptiness of her life. As the deed is nearly consummated, she hears her daughter and gets an epiphany on what her death would spell for her daughter. She therefore desists and concludes, “My death does not belong to me, it’s the others who would live my death.”
Read Also: An Invitation to Understand Suicide- Part 2
For de Beauvoir, the traumatic dislocation of lives resulting from killing oneself spells a far more complicated post-mortem; it is an experience that is both disruptive and destructive at the same time. The problem of meaning and consequence is harrowing: for the one who dies by suicide, death is liberation; but for those left behind, that death means bondage.
Sometimes, humans can be selfish creatures of a twisted kind of love. In suicide, we mourn yet blame the one we lost. We blame ourselves, we blame the dead: “Why didn’t she say anything?” “How could he leave me like this?” “She didn’t show any signs. We could’ve done something.” “If only I knew.” “He was selfish for keeping it to himself. Didn’t he trust us, his family and friends?”
We try to prevent and stop someone’s suicide because the burden of guilt and the task of moving-on are for those left behind to bear and endure.
Those left behind suffer the social burdens of stigma and shame associated with suicide. They also suffer the economic burden of suicide when, for example, a provider’s death results in financial loss and material harm.
The psychological burden of suicide resides largely on personal guilt because those left behind blame themselves responsible: they believe they may have contributed to the reasons why it happened, they failed to recognize the person’s suicidal anguish, and they failed to prevent the person’s death. The nerve-wracking guilt can produce intense feelings of sadness leading to depression and anger against the dead for selfishly leaving them in a miserable state.
Read Also: An Invitation to Understand Suicide- Part 1
The after-death burdens of suicide such as the psychological guilt and material dislocation that ensues make it hard for us to accept the individual’s decision to die by suicide.
But what if the death of the physical body is the only way to be healed? This and the individual’s right to determine his/her life and death will be taken in the postscript of this series on understanding suicide.