The death of a loved one can be devastating. When a family member or friend takes his or her own life, the devastation you feel can be magnified manifold.
If you have lost an important person in your life to suicide, you are far from being alone. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention estimates that over 44,000 people in the United States take their own lives each year. the AFSP notes that this estimate is low because of the stigma associated with suicide. Every year, people take their own lives and the circumstances surrounding their deaths are not officially reported.
Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States at this time. The AFSP believes that for every successful suicide, there are 25 attempts.
In addition to recognizing that you are not alone in losing a loved one to suicide, you can take steps to heal in the aftermath of losing a family member or friend in this tragic manner. Healing from suicide is not easy. Nonetheless, it is possible.
Prepare for Intense Emotions
The suicide of a loved one is highly likely to result in extremely intense emotions, according to the world-renowned Mayo Clinic. You need to understand that these intense, sometimes seemingly overpowering, emotions following a family member or friend’s suicide represent a normal response. You must not think that you are either overreacting to a loved one taking his or her life or that there is something wrong with you for these responses.
The nature and extent of emotions experienced by a person who loses a loved one to suicide vary from one individual to another. Nonetheless, there are some emotional responses to the suicide of a loved one that typically is experienced by those left behind, according to Mayo Clinic. In the overall scheme of things, you cannot begin to heal from the suicide of a loved one until you accept the validity of the emotions you experience.
Once you have accepted the reality of these emotions, you can begin the hard work of getting beyond them. You can begin the healing process.
In the immediate aftermath of learning of the suicide of a loved one, you are likely to experience shock. You may feel numb. There may be a surreal quality about the entire situation. You may go so far as to deny that your loved one is gone.
A sense of disbelief oftentimes accompanies the death of a loved one, particularly if the passing was unexpected. This sense of disbelief, that enhances a person’s shock over the death, generally is more intense in the case of a suicide. Trying to get your hands around and come to grips with even the idea that someone you care about could kill his or her self is immensely complicated.
Multifaceted anger represents another emotion you are likely to face in the aftermath of the suicide of a loved one. The anger is apt to feel as if it is coming from all sides. You may be angry with your loved one for leaving you with what feels like a legacy of grief. You may feel anger arising out of a sense of being abandoned.
You may also be very angry with yourself. You will undoubtedly feel as if you missed clues about your loved one’s suicidal intentions or ideations. Indeed, when all is said and done, the most significant anger may, in fact, be that which is directed at yourself.
Coinciding with the anger directed at yourself is likely to be a tremendous amount of guilt. If you are like nearly everyone else who experiences the loss of a loved one due to suicide, you will blame yourself for your family member or friend’s death. You are highly likely to replay scenarios in your mind that focus on what if you had been more aware of your loved one’s state.
If you are like most people who find themselves dealing with the suicide of a loved one, you will face a significant level of confusion. A natural response to anyone’s death is to try and make sense out of it. This is particularly the case when a death is untimely.
Making sense of a loved one’s passing can prove to be a herculean, if not impossible, task. The bottom line is that you may never be able to make sense of why a person took his or her life. You may never truly come to an understanding of how and why your loved one killed his or her self.
You may always have unanswered questions. Confusion about the loss of your family member or friend ultimately may have to be accepted as part of moving forward and beginning the true process of healing.
Another profound emotion you are likely to face following the suicide of a loved one very well may be a sense or feeling of rejection. With shocking regularity, those left to mourn the loss of a loved one through suicide face the prospect of trying to understand why they were not enough to keep their loved ones from dying by their own hands. You may struggle with trying to comprehend how your presence and relationship with your loved one simply was not enough.
Implement Healthy Coping And Healing Strategies
Once you recognize the array of emotions you face following the suicide of a loved one, once you accept that feeling these emotions is appropriate, you can begin the process of developing coping strategies and healing. As you begin to contemplate these strategies and your own course of healing, the words “all in due time” are fundamental.
When it comes to coping and healing after the death of a loved one by suicide, every person comes to terms with the death, copes, and heals in his or her own way and pace. You cannot compare and contrast your own healing process with anyone else. In the same way, no two patients recover from the same disease in an identical fashion, so no two people healing from the suicide of a family member or friend heal in the same manner.
This reality leads to one of the key elements of the healing process. You must grieve in your own way. For example, your family members or friends may take comfort in talking about the death of your loved one. However, you may not enjoy that benefit from the conversation. In fact, discussing your lost loved one may be difficult for you and only aggravate the myriad of emotions you face.
In the end, there is no right way to grieve any death of a loved one. Therefore, do not feel like you must do what others around you elect to do after the death of your loved one.
Understanding that you must grieve in your own way, you nevertheless should otherwise reach and stay connected to other people. This includes family members, friends, and even spiritual or religious connections that may otherwise have played a role in your life before you lost your loved one.
You do not need to engage with these people to grieve or even talk about the loss of your loved one unless you want to do so. Rather, these individuals can be people you can be with even if you would rather be silent.
In the process of healing from the suicide of a loved one, you need to understand that setbacks are natural. Setbacks are to be expected.
By that, it is meant that some days you may feel like you have your emotions and feelings under control. That feeling of having move forward may dissipate in a beat. The reality is that there will be days in which you feel and perform better than others.
On a related note, and as has been referenced to some degree previously, you cannot and should not rush yourself through some sort of preconceived healing and restoration process. Not only can you not hurry through the healing process, but you also cannot be hurried along by anyone else. You will heal at your own pace.
Professional Assistance Can Be Vital
Be prepared to consider seeking professional assistance when it comes to healing from the suicide of a family member or friend. In this day and age, there are professionals who specialize in working with people who have experienced the deaths of loved ones by suicide.
You have a variety of options when it comes to seeking professional assistance in the aftermath of the suicide of a family member or friend. There are therapists that work one-on-one with people who have lost loved ones by suicide. There are also group therapy programs, led by professionals, that can prove to be helpful to a person dealing with the aftermath of a loved one’s suicide.
Beyond professionals who can assist you, there are also more informal resources in place that can prove invaluable in your healing process. For example, there exist support groups that are designed specifically for individuals who have lost loved ones by suicide. Religious organizations, mental health centers, and even funeral homes oftentimes have connections with these types of groups.
In addition to seeking assistance from professionals and support groups, there are organizations that have resources that can be invaluable to a person who has lost a loved one through suicide.
Survivors of Suicide exists to specifically provide support to individuals who have lost a loved one by suicide. The Alliance of Hope is a similar resource for people attempting to come to terms and heal from the suicide of a family member or friend.