Not Understanding Suicide

(Disclosure:  I am not a mental health professional.  The claims made in this post are based on personal experience and common observations.)

The public reactions to reports of Anthony Bourdain’s death have been, for the most part, respectful.  They should be.  People who weren’t acquainted with him should note only his professional accomplishments and other things he allowed into the public record.  Appreciate what he shared, and respect boundaries so we aren’t debating things Mr. Bourdain didn’t share.

I’m guessing that most public figures who end their own lives don’t want their actions interpreted as endorsements of suicide.  It’s hard to know what people are thinking when they’re desperate, though.

In the past, I went through suicidal phases that made me feel as if the rest of the world was about a million miles away.  It didn’t occur to me that anyone would react one way or another to my death.  I never actually attempted suicide, so I never saw anyone’s reaction to learning about an attempt.  Those people were completely outside my frame of reference, the way my own emotions were completely separate from what anyone else understood.

If you’ve never been in that overwhelmingly painful-but-anesthetized state, you may have no idea what a suicidal person goes through.  I’m still not convinced I know anything about what happens to other people who think about ending their lives.  We’re all separate individuals.

Through observation, we know about something which happens to some people whose loved ones commit suicide.  Be careful about generalizations, but please read on:

Some people who continue with their lives after the suicide of someone close to them get angry.  They say things they might eventually regret because they feel deserted and have emotions they can’t articulate well.

I hope people who read Val Kilmer’s Facebook reaction to Anthony Bourdain’s suicide won’t make assumptions about how the piece reflects on either man.  It’s a reaction we’ve seen before, and it’s Mr. Kilmer’s own personal agony.  It could happen to any of us, and I hope that in time Val Kilmer will realize his friend went through something complicated which may have been beyond his control.  That’s something we all have to do before we can find inner peace.

Please click two links at the end of this post.  One is a news story about Val Kilmer’s Facebook post, and the other is a video of a Parkinson interview (ITV) with Joan Rivers in 2007.  She talked about the anger she felt after the death of her husband, Edgar Rosenberg.  The actual running time is slightly over fifteen minutes, but clips are run repetitively after that.


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