日本基督教団 The United Church of Christ in Japan

Support for Families Grieving Deaths by Suicide


Ever since 1998, the number of suicide deaths in Japan has continued at the high level of over 30,000 annually. To meet this critical situation, the Japanese government promulgated the "Basic Law against Suicide" in 2006 and took measures to implement it, but to this day the high level has not been reduced. The above number also means that annually more than double or triple that number of bereaved family members in need of care are created.
"Attending to my daily clinical work, I have realized the depth of the suffering of these bereaved families." "One such person said, 'Daily I seem to be sitting on a mat of needles.'" (Support Families of those who commit Suicide, published by M. C. Muse)
Dr. Hirayama Masami* has established Grief Care/Support Plaza to help lessen the suffering of such families. Also, he makes visits throughout Japan as a representative of the Nation-wide Network for the Support of Suicide Survivors' Groups. He explains the situation as follows.
"Most suicides are unexpected. When facing the sudden and shocking death of a family member, the families are left asking, 'Why?' Among all, there is a strong feeling of guilt. They torment themselves thinking, 'We wished we had noticed the problem earlier,' or 'If only we could have done something about it beforehand'." "If the person who committed suicide was sick, the family may direct anger against the medical care person involved, or at times may even feel somewhat relieved if the care for the person who committed suicide had been felt to be a great burden. The feelings of the bereaved family members are never simple.
"The critical eyes of society intensify the burden of the bereaved family. In Japan, worried about their reputation, the family hesitates to the make suicide public. There are cases when some do not even notify their relatives or hold a funeral service. Moreover, often someone's thoughtless words add to their grief. As a result, the bereaved family loses the chance to receive comfort, the door to healing is closed, or they close themselves to the outside with feelings of guilt. The purpose of Grief Care/Support Plaza is to become a care-giver to such family members so that they can experience healing and have a chance to recover.
"What is healing? Does grief disappear by healing? No, grief may even deepen at times. However, through such grief people may grow spiritually. Still, it is necessary for them to be freed from their feelings of guilt. The root of the suicide problem in Japan is related to Japanese culture. Unfortunately, in traditional Japanese culture, there is no concept or belief in forgiveness of sin. Thus, there is a need for the Christian faith, which shows the way of confession of sin through repentance and the message of forgiveness and sanctification by God in Jesus Christ."
As a youth, Dr. Hirayama himself lost a close friend by suicide. This death of a friend left "a question" in his heart and paved the way for his own life work. He says, "Because of his death, I am what I am now. As the resurrected Christ lives in the hearts of all believers, my friend still lives in my heart." (Tr. RK)
*Hirayama Masami is a neuro-psychiatrist and serves as the director of Grief-care/Support Plaza. Born in 1938 in Tokyo.At present, he is a professor at Seigakuin College Graduate School in the Institute of Human Welfare, president of Kitasenju Asahi Clinic, chair of the Board of Directors of Grief Care/Support Plaza (http://www12.ocn.ne.jp/~griefcsp/), and representative of the Nation-wide Network for the Support of Suicide Survivors' Groups.
--From Kokoro no Tomo (Hearts' Friend)
  「私は、日頃、臨床に携わっていて、自死遺族の苦しみがどんなに深いものであるかということを知った」「『毎日が、針のむしろに座っているようだ』と語ら れた遺族もあった」(『自死遺族を支える』エム・シー・ミューズ刊)。平山さんは、この遺族の苦しみを和らげるために「グリーフケア・サポートプラザ」を 設立した。また、「自死遺族ケア団体全国ネット」の代表として全国を飛び回る。
  「自死の多くは予期できません。家族の突然の衝撃的な死に、『なぜ』『どうして』という思いが遺族に残ります。なかでも、罪責感の問題が大きいのです。 『気づいてあげることができれば』『もっと早く手を打っていれば』と自分を責め続けるのです」「自死者が病気であった場合は医療者に対する怒りがあります し、介護がたいへんだった場合には、ある種の解放感もあります。遺族の感情は単純ではありません」
  このような自死遺族が背負う重荷をさらに過酷にするのが周囲の目だ。日本では外聞をはばかり、自死をなかなかオープンにできない。場合によっては親族にも 言わず、葬式さえ出さないケースもあるという。さらに、心ない人の言葉による二次的被害を受けることも多い。その結果、遺族は慰めを受ける機会を喪(うしな)い、癒(いや)しへの道が閉ざされるばかりでなく、罪責感を抱えたまま内に引きこもってしまうのだ。その遺族に癒しの場を与え、立ち直る機会を与える「寄り添い人」になるのが「グリーフケア・サポートプラザ」の目的である。
  「癒しとは何か、という問題があります。癒されると悲しみは消えるのか。そんなことはありません。むしろ悲しみは時と共に深くさえなります。しかし、その 悲しみによって人間的に深められていくという面があります」「他方、自分を責め続ける罪責感からは解放が必要なのです。残念ながら日本の文化には罪責の赦(ゆる)しという考えがありません。自殺問題の根幹には、日本の文化に触れる問題があるのです。ここに、罪責の告白と悔い改め、神による赦しと解放を説くキリスト教信仰の必要があると思います」

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