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How to respond to other people's prying

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I recently had a meeting with my probate lawyer's paralegal and toward the end of our meeting she began asking me questions about my late husband's suicide that had nothing to do with legalities. She openly said it was for her own curiosity and asked if I knew why he did it and if he left a note. It didn't really upset me until after I left and it sank in. I've read that it's not uncommon for people (strangers) to ask inappropriate questions out of their own curiosity, and I worry that as I get back out in public more and more and go back to work I'll have to face this again. I'm terrible with confrontation and I felt compelled to answer her questions even though I knew she had absolutely no right in needing to know. If you have dealt with inappropriate questions from random people who do not mean harm, how have you approached it?

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Ok..I'm a decade out...but this is something I found unique with being a survivor of suicide. This rarely comes up now in my life..but if it doesn't with strangers I'm much more politically correct (which I was not at all in my early years ) now if asked how he died I say "it was a sudden violent death" or "he took his own life".. Usually when I say it in a lower voice with a stare they change the subject.


Now my early days...it seemed I got invasive questions all the time. I was so angry inside I handled it with anger and sarcasm..


Some questions I got

"was he depressed?" Answer:Not he felt fabulous..what do you think?


"Why did he do it?"... answer : Guess he had a bad day dumbass.

"how did he do it?" answer: Bought a gun, amo and blew his brains out.

"Do you know why he did it?"- No..do you?


Usually these answers would shut them up. If they kept pressing I would ask "Are you asking outta concern or sheet nosiness?"


Sorry to be so blunt..That's how I handled it early on ..😣

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My husband died of cancer and I hate the 20 questions many people feel compelled to ask. And, unless I nip it in the bud, they will just keep pressing on in a seeming attempt to figure out how it was his fault he got the cancer and then managed to died from it - and reassure themselves it can’t possibly happen to them or one of their loved ones.


Dear Abby’s response to a rude question is to return it with the question- ‘why do you ask?’ But sometimes they will continue to plow ahead anyway. The best way I’ve found to shut things down is to firmly state that the subject is very painful for me to talk about- sometimes I’ll even say this when I find myself right in the middle of politely trying to answer a question I don’t want to. Then I either stare at them in complete silence- even if they continue pressing, or I change the subject to something simple like the weather or their pretty scarf, or ask them to please change the subject and talk about something else.


Even though it feels very personal, these questions really do have nothing to do with you or your spouse, and everything to do with the person asking them and their own issues. Perhaps trying to keep that fact in mind will help to remove some of the sting their questions bring to you.



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I feared that too- so I came up with this response.


It's complicated and hard to talk about his death- I'd rather tell you about his life.

He was a great guy with an amazing mechanical ability- and the best husband where it mattered most.

I was blessed to be his wife for 17 years. 


Then I change the subject...


I've only had two people ask..they were people who knew I was married.

The hair dresser asked me- it was early on..and I did not want to break down in the hair salon- so I just said- you know I kinda just want to get my hair done and go back home.

She was so embarrassed- she gave me 50% off.


Now if it's new people asking where it does not matter like polite chit chat with a one time encounter I just say- I'm not married.


If it's someone I want to be friends with and feel comfortable around- I tell them- He suffered a lot- over the years- the last two years he did everything the doctors suggested- but still got sicker and sicker...sometimes mental illness is fatal.



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I guess its just something we all have to deal with once in a while, nosy people. I kind of like your plan to tailor the response based on each person. That is exhausting but its true. I am not going to spend any time on the details with a casual acquaintance or a one time interaction with someone. But of course there are people I know well that will be different.


I am approaching 7 years out from my husband's suicide, and in my experience, some people that pry have a reason. Yes, some people are just nosy jerks, but I have had a few people ask questions because they have a similar loss, and once even worse, the person was suicidal themselves. I just do my best with each interaction and if I feel uncomfortable, I shut the conversation down immediately. Unfortunately, even after all these years, some people still ask.

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My children were 16 & 19 when my husband died and it was really important to me to address it head on to break through any stigma they might feel so we were very open about that fact that he struggled from bipolar depression for 25 years and succumbed to the disease.  My reply to any prying is always a variation on that. 


I think how you answer any prying is a very personal decision and I recognize my way is not for everyone.  I've often thought about how I would answer if it was a young child posing the question, which has never come up.  I suppose I would simply say he was sick for a long time and quickly change the subject.

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