Carolyn Hax: Advice

Should we mention suicide to new friend?

Carolyn Hax
Carolyn Hax

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Hi, Carolyn: When our neighbor moved in just over a year ago, she introduced herself and mentioned that her husband, who was in his late 30s, had passed away a year earlier. We’ve socialized with her quite a bit since then. She’s amazing: seemingly not dwelling in the past or in the depths of despair. She has a huge circle of friends, and she speaks freely about her late husband, sharing anecdotes and the like. Neither my husband nor I have asked about her husband’s death.

I learned this week via her Facebook page that her husband took his own life. Others who are closer to her know. It’s not a secret. We’re just not part of her circle who knew her when it happened.

Our neighbor can assume we have seen the post, which makes it clear she embraces the concept of erasing the stigma of suicide.

What do we say? I don’t want to shy away from acknowledging the post, but I don’t want to say something pitiful.

In the Know

Don’t say anything unless it comes up organically. That’s not the same thing as shying away or promoting stigma; it’s just recognizing that it’s her loss, her business, and she gets to take the lead on whether and when she talks about it with you.

Re: Suicide: I could be that neighbor and I concur with Carolyn to leave it be. If you had a parent or sibling take their life and want to share or ask if we can have a deeper conversation, that’s one thing. Making a generic statement doesn’t serve any real purpose here.

That Neighbor

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at 10 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.

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