Letter: Challenge your own narratives

Challenge your own narratives

Editor of the Reformer:

My friend committed suicide two weeks ago. I need something to come out of this beyond utter devastation and sadness.

It felt like there was a communal grieving process that immediately followed Jeremiah's suicide, one in which so many members of our community had something with which to grapple — from the people who averted their gaze when they'd pass him on Elliot Street, to those who loved him and tried to show it, to those who were harsh (back) to him, to those who gently distanced themselves. I don't want this grappling to stop as time goes on and we become acclimated to this new world in which Jeremiah is dead.

I firmly believe that nobody, regardless of how they responded to Jeremiah, caused his death. Someone wrote a lovingly honest obituary that taught a lot of us about the breadth of struggles he faced throughout his short life, and amid such a cocktail of suffering, I don't believe we can isolate one ingredient or set of ingredients as a tipping point. We don't know why he did it, and he took that answer, along with so many others, with him.

But what I do believe is that he left us with something worth grappling with: how we respond to people in our community who are suffering. If you tend to treat substance abuse issues or homelessness or mental health issues as moral failings — like so many in our society do — please, please challenge that narrative within yourself. People have reasons for being where they're at. Moral condemnation dismisses those reasons, and does nothing to help anyone.

And I beg that we all try, to the extent that we feel safe and capable, to act on compassion and empathy toward people who are challenging to be around. A brief moment of eye contact, a well wish, a nod can sometimes make a difference for someone who feels alone and rejected by the world. I ask that we make an effort to treat others in a way that shows them we acknowledge their dignity and their worth, regardless of what situation they are in.

None of this is to say that such things, even if delivered on a large scale, would have kept Jeremiah here. He'd probably hate this letter, with all its hope and presumption that anything could have meaning. But he's not here anymore and I still am, so I'm begging members of this community to do these things because it would mean that we made his death change our world beyond making it more tragic and painful.

Amée LaTour, Brattleboro, June 10


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