Suicide Loss and Grieving; My Personal Experience
One of the most painful ways to be left behind by a loved one is through suicide. This loss leaves loved ones feeling numb and confused, as well as having feelings of disorientation, guilt, shame, anger, intense sadness, rejection, and anxiety as a result of the trauma from their loss. These are very normal reactions to an abnormal event.
When I lost a loved one through suicide, there wasn’t much support or information available on how to deal with it, and the topic was primarily viewed with horrible stigmas. Therefore, talking about it with others often left them feeling uncomfortable and unable to help me.
I felt abandoned, deeply hurt, lost in a fog and all alone to endure the pain of my tragic and confusing loss. Many years later, I heard terms like "suicide survivors" and "survivors of suicide." This was the beginning of finding information out there to help those left behind to grieve this kind of loss.
I have chosen to write this article in the hope to help others who may have also sadly experienced the loss of someone they love through suicide.
When news of a suicidal death is first received, there tends to be a great deal of disbelief and denial.
Even though I was the one to find my loved one's body, I still wanted to believe that it wasn't true and expected it to be some cruel practical joke intended to teach me a harsh lesson. Though that in itself seems cruel, at that time, it seemed like a good exchange for the reality of the situation, which took some time and much verification to sink in.
ACCEPTING THE NEWS
Once the reality of the suicide sinks in, the minds of those dealing with the loss are constantly in a fog as they try to grapple with the situation; the feelings of loss can be very intense, which can be a very scary feeling in itself. Seeking professional grief counseling, or a support group can be very beneficial in finding ways to share your loss and feelings. This will serve to help you become a little more grounded and present. It is important that you still take care of yourself through this process.
Undoubtedly, the pain will be around for a long time but you can go on. That may mean taking it one day at a time, or even hours or minutes at a time. In the beginning, some days will seem non-existent and you’ll tend to forget events that happened throughout your day. I recall wondering if I actually stopped at red lights coming and going to work because my mind and emotions were not on the present; I was in a constant fog and my memory was hazy. But as time passes… much time, the pain slowly becomes less of a dominant factor in your days. Be patient with yourself and don’t allow anyone to convince you when you should be done grieving or how you should be grieving. The process tends to take its own natural course in different ways with each person. This is why proper support is so beneficial during this time.
Once I processed the loss, I began to ask why. Even though I had no idea why this decision was made, it seems like such an extreme solution to issues that might be solved in other ways. I kept wondering what I missed, or why he didn't share his troubles to get help. It is normal to keep asking questions and seek out answers, or to stumble with the lack of answers.
After my loss, I tore apart the house, looking in every spot seeking answers; hoping that he left anything that would help me to understand why. The thing about suicide is that even if we have answers, this is never an easy thing to understand.
The endless strings of “If only I had done this or hadn’t done that, maybe this wouldn't have happened” haunted me for a very long time. To this day, I still have a tendency to wonder “what if....”
It is quite a common occurrence during the grieving process to place blame on ourselves, or even on others for the suicide. While it is normal to want to find someone to blame, and though the situation is difficult to understand, it is important to recognize that the blame only creates greater hurts.
Some people expressed that I should have felt more anger over my loss than I did. I was never angry with him. Instead, I felt very sad for the pain he must have been feeling in order to make such an extreme decision. I was also sad that I was that I wasn't able to, or didn't know how to help him with that pain. Having these feelings would often lead me back to the feelings of guilt.
Cycling through different emotions is very normal during the grieving process. Anger is also a very normal part of the grieving process, and it may become directed from one person to another. But, the lesson here is, that no one has the right to tell you how you should or should not be feeling. These are your feelings and this is your process.
Seek support from a grief counselor, support groups, books, your faith leader, friends or family who fully understand your grief. It is important to be with those who exhibit compassion, patience, and support while allowing you to talk through your thoughts and feelings. Those who do not provide the support you need, or who exhibit judgments, may only serve to hold you back from your grieving and healing process.
On the other hand, remember that other friend and family survivors will be experiencing their own pain. So, it is equally important to be patient with them as well. Fortunately, there are many more resources available today to help with this difficult time. Please reach out and seek out resources that serve to help you.
BE PATIENT WITH YOURSELF
Take the grief-work process slowly. Don't force the emotions, pains, and memories aside before you're ready to do so. Don’t be afraid to cry; tears are a natural way to grieve and to heal. But on the other hand, don’t feel bad for smiling and laughing. It's especially good to remember the happy times you shared with the one you lost. Remember, love, respect, and share the person they were and the time you had with them. You are still alive, so it is good to enjoy such pleasantries, which is also healing.
Know that your emotions will come in and out of different phases as different memories and emotions come and go. So what you feel one minute may be quite different the next. These shifts in emotions may also tend to bring on headaches, loss of appetite, sleep disturbances and periods of "unreality." These are quite common to experience and does not mean that there is something wrong with you. It is yet another normal part of the impact of grieving.
If possible, refrain from making major decisions in your life shortly after the death. Your grief may distort your ability to make sound choices.
Your life is forever changed, but despite your grief, it will be important for you to take as good of care of yourself as you can and live a good life that you feel your loved one would have wanted for you.
Again, seeking professional guidance to help you with your grief work can be very beneficial.
- Resources for Loss Survivors
- Loss Survivors : Lifeline
If you have lost a loved one to suicide, you are not alone. There are resources available to help survivors of suicide loss cope.
- Suicide grief: Healing after a loved one's suicide - Mayo Clinic
Suicide — Coping with pain and grief after a loved one's suicide.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2010 Mary Roark