Talking About Suicide for Healing

Thich Nhat Hanh quote photo | Dianna Bonny Photography

As a result of Robin Williams’ suicide, I have had quite a few requests for radio interviews. I really enjoy them because it is interesting to hear what people are curious about in regards to this subject. Common themes have emerged and there have been a few probing questions that have really made me stop in my tracks.

Suicide is a taboo topic that makes most people very uncomfortable. In spite of the idea that it is an epidemic, and the alarming statistics that go along with it, we really are just beginning to develop a language for speaking about it.

The question of how to speak to children about suicide has come up quite a bit and there seems to be a genuine desire to understand how one actually engages in this daunting task. I have written about it before and now, with the benefit of a much larger expanse of hindsight, a few things about the process have occurred to me.

This may sound strange, but I view the aftermath as an entity in and of itself, because suicide is not simply an event that crosses our path: its very nature changes the course of our lives. Because of this, there is a choice to be made as to how we engage with the experience, as well as an acceptance of the fact that there are going to be extremely uncomfortable moments.

Speaking to our children is certainly one of them and was, without a doubt, one of the most difficult tasks for me. I felt very afraid, perhaps because I did not have answers or solutions. I just wanted to make their pain stop, which, of course, I didn’t have the power to do. As a mother, this was unbearable.

What I did have was a very strong intention — to provide a better legacy for my kids — and that gave me the strength to explore conversation, because it was jet-fueled by a deep sense of purpose.

My experience of suicide is that it turns the world upside down and inside out, making complete and utter beginners out of the people left in its wake. Nothing is familiar and, in that way, adapting to the aftermath is akin to developing a new skill set or pursuing a challenging endeavor.

This is how I have come to view the course of things when I reflect on what I did in those first few days and months.

I was very lost, but somehow I embraced every aspect, especially conversations, with the attitude of knowing I had to make my way through them in order to find a path to the other side. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I adopted a beginner’s mind that is so essential to the Zen way of life. I’m certain this is how I mustered up the courage and strength to speak to my kids so openly.

I went very slowly, and ever so deliberately, as I inched my way into more and more expansive discussions.

We don’t have to have all the answers to engage in conversations. Just being present, with an open heart and a curious beginner’s mind, will take every one of us a very long way on the path to healing.

What has been your experience with difficult conversations? Do you shy away from them or have you found a way to engage wholeheartedly?

May your journey always be blessed and protected.


Who is Dianna Bonny?

Hi, my name is Dianna Bonny. It’s my mission to candidly share my journey with you. For me, it’s all about the healing: to create a radiant healing energy for others who have befallen a similar fate. Together, we can forge beautiful lives of belonging and connection. Thanks for joining me today! I look forward to hearing from you.

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