Losing a loved one to suicide is a devastating experience. Unlike mourning a loss which happens either by accident or natural causes, grieving after suicide triggers conflicting emotions which are painful to confront, and difficult to resolve. Suicide is often unexpected. It shocks every person left behind and fills them with questions of why? This absence of closure makes mourning in the wake of suicide unique. It’s not unusual for people who grieve after a loved one’s suicide to require a lot of time and reflection in order to find peace again. If you are personally grieving over a suicide, or you’re in a position to console someone coping with suicide, here are some words of advice to help survive the loss:
If you have lost a Loved One to Suicide:
1. Allow your Emotions to Exist:
Grief after suicide unleashes a cocktail of varied emotions. Sorrow is typically expected for example, but people have also been known to feel shock, denial, confusion, guilt, anger, or even counterintuitive emotions like relief. Whether or not your emotions feel appropriate, understand that they are all part and parcel of the healing process. Rather than suppressing them, allow them to emerge, exist, and subside. Everything you feel is normal, so don’t be so hard on yourself about how you react to tragedy.
2. Don’t Go it Alone:
There’s an age-old proverb which says – a problem shared is a problem halved. This is especially true when healing from the pain of bereavement. If there are people around you who genuinely care about your well-being, spend time with them and draw some support from their kindness. Even if your immediate circle may not be available to sympathize with your hardship, Mental Health professionals can provide therapy to help you deal with your challenges. It’s healthy to have positive interpersonal contact during grief.
3. Don’t Let Yourself Go:
The anguish of mourning can be paralyzing, and many people sink into depression after losing a loved one. No matter how heartbroken you feel, keep hope alive that time will heal your sadness. Remember to take care of yourself and do the little things. Get some rest, eat some food, keep your surroundings clean and allow your daily routine to continue, even if it’s on a basic level. The more your life slows down to a standstill, the longer it takes to get past the sadness.
If you want to Offer Support to Someone Grieving Over Suicide:
1. Allow their Emotions to Exist:
Always keep in mind that people who process the trauma of suicide experience a wide range of emotions. The last thing they need is to feel is criticism or judgement. Offer your support in a way that accepts and respects their complex emotional state. Also remember that they deserve to grieve at their own pace, so however long it takes, tailor your support for them in a way that validates their emotions.
2. Use the Deceased’s Actual Name in Conversation:
Because suicide is controversial and stigmatized, people unwittingly practice a peculiar habit when expressing sympathies after a suicide. Mourners who console survivors bereaved by suicide tend to avoid saying the deceased person’s name out of impulse. This is usually a reflex meant to avoid calling attention to the fact that a suicide happened, but it has the unintended consequence of banishing the suicide victim’s identity altogether. It can feel as if everyone is in denial that a loss has happened. There’s no need to walk on eggshells about saying the deceased’s name. Simply say it if, and when, the occasion calls for it.
3. Don’t Spread Gossip:
Human beings are social creatures, and one of the easiest things to do in the aftermath of a suicide is gossip and speculate about what led to the tragedy. However, remember to be considerate about what you say, and who you say it to. Be especially careful not to post anything in bad taste on social media. Always allow the bereaved to have privacy, and dignity, as they deal with the loss of a loved one.
It takes a lot of time to recover from the pain of mourning, but it is possible to recover. No matter how dark or difficult things feel in the present, tomorrow is a new day. Have faith that you will get through the pain of this moment. If you are dealing with suicidal thoughts, you are not alone. Please call 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) or 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) and a professional will be on-hand to guide you through some counseling. RISE Programs is here to help.