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Dear Dougy Podcast: conversations about grief and loss

Drawing from over 30 years of stories and wisdom from grieving children, teens, and adults, the Dear Dougy Podcast is opening up the conversation about dying, death, and bereavement. As humans, we all experience loss during our lives, but often find ourselves lost and unsure when it comes to navigating the grief that follows. Whether you’re grieving a death, or wanting to support someone who is, the Dear Dougy Podcast can help explore your questions about grief. Produced by the staff of The Dougy Center in Portland, Oregon, the Dear Dougy Podcast is a mostly-question-and-answer conversation, and occasionally includes other visitors in the field of dying, death, and bereavement. Have a question to ask? Send it our way at help@dougy.org, with the word ‘podcast’ somewhere in the subject line.
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May 29, 2015

In this episode, Jana DeCristofaro and The Dougy Center's CEO, Donna Schuurman discuss terms to avoid, and what to say instead, when talking about suicide. Here is a link to download our Tip Sheet on how to support children and teens who have had someone die of suicide.

Terms not to use (and why):

1. “Committed Suicide”

Committed suicide,’ with its implications of criminality, is a carryover from the Middle Ages, when civil authorities, finding the victim beyond their reach, punished the survivors by confiscating their property. Victims were forbidden traditional funerals and burials, and suicide was considered both illegal and sinful by the laws and religions of the time.

 

2. “Completed Suicide” or "Successful Suicide"

These terms make it seem like something to celebrate: He completed this! She was successful!

 

3. “Suicided”

We don't say someone "cancered" or "car accident-ed"...

 

4. Using "suicide" as a noun (as in "he was a suicide") 

This reduces the person to the mode of their death. 

 

Better terms:

 

1. Died by Suicide

The Compassionate Friends was the first to officially adopt the terms ‘died by suicide’ or ‘died of suicide. ’

 

2. Died of Suicide 

Here's a general Rule of Thumb: If you can’t substitute the word “Cancer,” you may want to reconsider how you're using the word "suicide." He died of cancer: He died of suicide.

 

3. State how the person died (jumped off a bridge; took an overdose); of course, this is the personal preference of family members, something not all will choose to do)

 

4. “Suicide Death”

 Advocated by the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention. (Some find it repetitive in that suicide IS by definition a death. (Whereas, for example “cancer” by definition does not always mean a death.)

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