Monday, April 24, 2017

Suicide, Selfishness and Social Media

The news of Aaron Hernandez's death reached me on Wednesday afternoon.

For those of you who do not follow football in any way, Hernandez was a professional football player.  He was also a convicted murderer serving a life sentence without parole for 1st Degree Murder.  Aaron Hernandez was a handsome and talented young man with opportunities.  He had the opportunity to get a good education, to make lots of money, and to make good choices. He did not choose to be a good person.  He chose to hurt, and in some cases kill, others. I can't say what kind of spouse or parent he was.  Maybe in spite of his criminal convictions, he was a loving husband and a good father.  On April 19th, he was found dead in his cell, having committed suicide by hanging himself.

Some say that the tragedy isn't his death but the way he lived his life.  His death has also been called selfish, righteous, and "karmic".

The "jokes" regarding his sad passing followed only a few hours later. I'm feeling many of the things I felt when Robin Williams died. But it goes so much deeper than that now.  Now, not only am I saddened and angered by the thing I see posted but I'm heartbroken.

I lost someone I loved very much in the last year.  She died by suicide.  It's been 328 days and I've thought of her every single day.  I didn't speak at her funeral.  I could have, but I was too busy trying to wake up from the nightmare I thought I was having.  I haven't talked about it publicly or written about her in an open forum in the 10 months and 24 days since the day she died because I just can't.  I'm not ready to really talk about her.  Not yet.

What I can tell you is that I didn't gasp with delight when I got the message that she died. There is nothing giggle-worthy about the sight of her mother's tears.  My sides do not ache from laughter at night when I'm asking myself "what if" and "why". I don't share side-splitting stories about her funeral, the hilarious eulogy her mother gave, and the delightful sight of her grief-stricken teenage friends. I don't guffaw at the fact that I have known the pain of depression and considered suicide in the past.

Nothing about her death has been funny.  I am not a stranger to the death of loved ones or the grief that follows.  This, however, has be unlike any grief that I have ever known in my life and I wouldn't wish it on anyone.

Which is why the "jokes" about Aaron Hernandez bothered me so much.  Suicide isn't funny. There's nothing funny about it, especially to those of us who are suicide survivors, who struggle with self-harm, and those of us who have lost someone to suicide.

Thank goodness for the people who try though.  The people who try to explain to people who have been so untouched by depression and suicide that they can joke about it and when confronted can say, "They chose to be selfish and make that decision".

Selfish.

I keep hearing that suicide is the most selfish decision a person can make.

This week I learned that it isn't.  Because if you tell someone that the joke they shared about a celebrity suicide bothered you, they'll tell you that if you don't like it you don't have to read it and they can post it because of the 1st Amendment.

No one is arguing rights.  It's about compassion and empathy.  It's about being a decent human being.  Somehow, claiming 1st Amendment rights in the face of grief, sadness and tragedy seems a lot more selfish than suicide does.