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People Say the Darndest Things on Suicide

There was a television show “Kids Say the Darndest Things” which was hilarious. They interviewed kids who would say typical child misunderstandings. Maybe this could embarrass a parent but they were kids who did not know any better.

People talk without thinking or are clueless. This is a continuation of the series of posts on things my wife or I have heard on foster care, infertility, miscarriage, adoption, and suicide. My wife or I have heard all of these and most more than once. I really am not trying to call anyone out or embarrass and I have said stupid things way too many times. My hope is if you catch yourself thinking any of these common cultural sayings, you’ll stop and find something more useful to do.

  • “You should bury yourself in work so you don’t think about his death.” – Neither working nor not working helped anything. Nothing keeps you from thinking about it 24×7.
  • “Why did he kill himself?” – On first pass it is insensitive. After that I am going with a gross misunderstanding of what suicide really entails. Everything I have ever read and everyone I’ve talked with whom have attempted agree, a mental block occurs. There is no hope, no path forward, no logic. He did not kill himself. He died from suicide. It killed him.
  • “Did he O.D.?” – Do you think this would make it “better”? The toxicology tests take a long time and if it exists, I have not seen it. I do not know and I likely would not confirm or deny this if I did.
  • “Don’t make any decisions for a year.” – I wish I could put life on hold but I cannot.
  • “The Bible says we should not cremate people.” and “You have to keep his ashes together.” – Why? I have not found this in the Bible. The One who created the universe cannot handle it?
  • “Time heals all wounds.” – No, it does not. Some wounds never heal. An amputee knows this. Time allows one to become more accustomed to the loss, but the loss remains. A piece of me is missing and it will not return.
  • “You should be happy for the time you had.” or “Cling to the happy memories.” – Happiness and grief can coincide. I am sometimes happy. I grieve continuously. Remembering the happy times is great, but it also points to the pain.
  • “Is your daughter in therapy? She really should. You all should be in therapy.” – I hate to bring this one up as a negative but it is. Therapy can be great when done correctly. There are also a lot of bad therapists and many have no ability to help those grieving the loss of a child. The extreme few allowed to say these phrases to me have and I talk to them about it. Most people should stay out of this arena. I am sure you will know when you have the right to ask if you really think through it. When it comes from those on the edges, it comes across very negative.
  • “You seem like you are all doing great.” – We are doing great … considering. Also, we can be happy. We also can have a terrible day and struggling hard to just get through it. It is hard to explain until you’ve been here. When you say this, it can bring up more problems, including guilt over being happy.
  • “He’s in a better place.” and “You’ll see him again.” – Grief is about them not being here. It is about missing them. These admonitions do nothing about the present.
  • “Was it over a girl?” – Do you even know Caleb? Suicide attempts can be made for attention and sometimes it is about a relationship. This was not the case.
  • “He lived with a gay person. Was he gay?” – Now I know you do not know Caleb. He had all kinds of friends, including some who are gay. He was not.

People ask what they should say. Our child is gone. You cannot say anything to make it better. If you want to help someone who is suffering a loss, be with them. Talk with them because silence is MUCH worse than avoidance. Proactively suggest things you are able to do without pressure. Say the child’s name and talk about them and bonus points for present tense. “Caleb loves backpacking north Georgia mountains. I went with him to …”.

Ask questions about how to talk about Foster Care, Adoption, Miscarriages, Infertility, and Child Loss. I will have a post on what people have said for each one. Ask what is appropriate or how to help a loved one through it in the comments below or private message. Have you heard other cliches?

Thanks to Donna Lloyd for helping me remember some quotes.

Published inGrief


  1. Oh David,
    I want to send you my love from one bereaved parent to another. I also want to thank you for writing this. I can relate to almost every single ‘darndess thing’ you mentioned in this post and while I truly believe people honestly mean well in most cases, it’s just hurtful so many times hearing these things. When I first lost my daughter, I had a problem with people making their own assumptions and spreading stories about her death that were completely untrue and fabricated. It really hurt, I’ve gotten better with those things now. They can think what they want. I know her heart and the circumstances of her death.

    Keep up the informational writing, it really helped me today.

    Laura Douglass
    Maddy’s Mom

    • david

      Thanks so much for the kind words! I’m so sorry for your loss. We had a person spreading fabrications too; it hurts.

      • It does hurt. My daughter died from an accidental drowning in the bathtub where she was huffing compressed air. She was just hiding somewhere where she didn’t think I’d walk in on her. It was just a terrible tragic accident. When I returned to my work (of 18 years) everyone started talking to me about suicide. I was completely floored at that point and so hurt that no one actually bothered to ask me what had happened before opening their mouths. What I’ve learned in my almost 2 1/2 year journey is, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. My heart still breaks the same. She is still gone and no matter how she left, my heart and every fiber of my being is still in ruins.

        You mentioned in one of your other posts that your wife had a blog and had quoted some of her writing. Is her blog still active? I’d love to follow her if so.

        • david

          Donna’s blog is still online at http://donnalloyd.net. It has been dormant for some time but it covered our adoption, miscarriage, grief, and life.

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