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Illness & Death
Illness & Death

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“Kaplan has written a book that should be a staple of every medical school’s curriculum.  It’s a must for student doctors, and those advanced in their training. Not only does Kaplan include examples of how and what to say (and perhaps more importantly, what NOT to say), but practical tips on what to DO. ‘Tips’ in bold, scattered throughout each section, offer quick, practical suggestions when the reader is pressed for time.”

Barbara M. Mackie, MD, Clinical Assistant Professor at VCU School of Medicine and Georgetown University School of Medicine

Supporting the Bereaved After a Suicide
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A member of my community took his life. It was a sudden and traumatic loss and while some people treated his widow with kindness, she shared that she was unprepared for the hurtful actions of others. For example, she saw a friend walking towards her one morning in our small town. The friend saw her too and she quickly crossed the street to avoid her.

A colleague also shared a hurtful experience following the suicide of her physician brother. Though she was just a child, she vividly remembers the sound of her neighbor’s footsteps as she crossed their wooden porch. When her mother answered the loud knock, the neighbor asked, “Jean, how’d he do it?”

It’s shocking to hear that someone has taken their life but even more shocking to learn that people do not give the bereaved the same support they give for other deaths. Why should we shy away from someone who is grieving just because their loved one took their life? As one widow stated, “My husband was a good man and lived a good life; he just chose to end it badly.”

When you learn that someone has died and the cause of death is suicide, please do the same things for the bereaved that you would do to comfort and support anyone that has experienced a death. They’ll need your support now and for a long time to come. It’s just the right thing to do.