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Understanding Death and Suicide - Part 1

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What you also learn is that human beings are much, much stronger as you ever give them credit in a crisis as long as you are not alone, as long as you have somebody to share with. And there is not one single patient that they don't know they're dying. If you're going to visit somebody who is terminally ill, what is your biggest fear, or what makes you leery? To talk about dying. Ja? [Various responses at the same time within the room.] What? You think that you depress them? Or upset them? What do you do then in order to avoid it? What are you talking about? - The weather! - You talk about the weather and the nice clouds and all the baloney and you understand when you come to dying, you couldn't care less whether it's 50 degrees or 55 degrees. These are not important things. Your values suddenly change and you know who comes in the room and it's a phony baloney and talks about nice things and comes because one has to and who comes and really share of themselves. The easiest thing in the world is to walk into a terminally patient's room and say "I would like to help you, I don't have the slightest idea what I can do or what to say, and I'm in fact very leery about it, but maybe we can help each other." And they open up. It's like opening clock gates. Or you catch them and say: "God, it must be tough!" And they say "Tough? That's not the word for it, I've rung the nurses about 6 times, nobody comes, everybody has rounds outside", or "my relatives are coming visit me with all these fancy gifts and before they were so stingy, they didn't even give me a Christmas present". "Don't you know that I know?" And you know they begin to share, "what it's like when somebody, suddenly becomes quote 'a dying person'? And they can get away with everything and anything?" When you work with dying children that's even worse. They get an electric train when they're 3 years old, you know, they get anything and everything and why do people do that? Yeah. And out of guilt. You can buy them something. You can never buy love. It is... Patients know that instantly. Instantly. And they write you off or they just keep quite or they at the end they are grateful when nobody comes anymore. Because it's so phony baloney. Every dying patient - and then, after years I started working with dying children - now I work exclusively with dying children. Almost exclusively. I work with pairs of dying children. Next week I go to Atlanta, to see -you know- all the parents of those children that I... presume they are familiar with... eeh... or parents who's children commit suicide and they have a much harder time, because parents who's child commit suicide, you understand, it's terribly heartbreaking and the guilt, the shame and the concern they have is absolutely devastating to them. And they tell you why children commit suicide and if you belong into that group, think about it before you act. Two weeks ago, I was in New York and I was in a very conservative group of very nicely dressed formal people. And I knew I had to be very conservative with these people. You know what a proper lady looks like? You know, when the hat and the gloves and the hand-bag and the shoes [laughter] fit all properly... Err... very different for me. And this lady just stared at me during the whole lecture. And at the end I knew that she wanted to talk to me, but she couldn't quite make it. And I gave her ample time to do it and she left in a hurry. And this was about 11 o clock at night and about six o clock in the morning she came to the motel and that's very un-ladylike to come visit ME at 6 in the morning, because I'm not awake until 10 am, but I had to catch a 7 o clock flight and she came and said "I have to tell you what happened to me last night". This was her language. Very un-ladylike, but very authentic and genuine. Which is much more real than all that nice front. Last night I came home and my 18 year old son was sitting on the refrigerator with his friends and the way she said 'friends' you could smell it. You know? With, with contempt? With disgust almost. She said he sat on the refrigerator with his filthy, icky, worn out, washed out T-shirt and I can tell you that the last few months, every night we bitched at each other for hours and this is how it went away, very night. Last night I came home and he sat there again with his friends and his washed out T-shirt, that he got from one of his girl-friends and I took one look at him and I said "Bob, if you want to wear that Τ-shirt, it's ok with me. Because if tonight, you drive your friends home, and you would be in an accident and you would get killed, I would bury you in this T-shirt." Do you understand, they beauty of this confession? And that's all she wanted to share with me and that is the gift of my work. Do you understand that? They suddenly change their values. Why is it important to spend so much energy and so much ugliness and so much negativity on the ch... on the mother and child relationship, because of his stupid T-shirt and her only fear was what are the neighbors thinking, that we cannot afford to dress you right. Do you understand? That peculiar values. I hope that you remember that. That's the kind of things that we did to our children, and were done to us, and so we pass it on.

Video Details

Duration: 5 minutes and 51 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Producer: EKRFoundation
Director: EKRFoundation
Views: 136
Posted by: tinaki on Jul 12, 2010

Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross speaks to high school students about death & suicide. Filmed April 23, 1981. For more information please see

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