A Suicide Survivors Guide for Grieving; Based on Personal Experience
One of the most painful ways to be left behind by a loved
one is through suicide. A suicidal death leaves “survivors of suicide” or
“suicide survivors” (those loved ones left behind) feeling numb and confused,
as well as feelings of intense anger, disorientation, rage, fear, guilt, shame,
rejection and anxiety as a result of the trauma the death creates. These are
very normal reactions to an abnormal event.
When I was left behind as a survivor of suicide there wasn’t much information available on how to deal with such a situation, and talking about it with others often left them feeling uncomfortable and unable to support me through such a traumatic experience.
I felt abandoned, deeply hurt, lost in a fog and all alone to endure the pain of my loss. That is why I have chosen to write this article; as I 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 some disbelief and denial. I actually found the body of my loved one, yet there was still a part of me that didn’t believe it was true. I expected it to end up a cruel 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 death sinks in, the pain becomes so horrible that a survivor may feel like they can never live or enjoy life again. It is common for a suicide survivor to feel suicidal themselves, which can be a very scary feeling, especially after knowing how much pain it leaves behind to do so.
Undoubtedly, the pain will be around for a long time. But
you will go on, taking it one day at a time, or even hours or minutes at
time. Some days will seem like they didn’t even occur and you’ll tend to
events that happened throughout your day. I recall wondering if I
stopped at red lights coming and going to work, because my mind and
were not on the present and my memory was hazy. But as time passes… much
the pain will become less of a dominant factor in your days. Be patient
yourself and don’t allow anyone to convince you when you should be done
grieving. Only you can know when you are done.
Once I processed the loss, I began to ask why. It seems like such an extreme solution to temporary problems that can be solved in other ways. It is normal to keep asking questions until you have come to terms with the answers, or the lack of answers, you have come up with.
After my loved one took his life, I tore apart the house, looking in every spot in every area 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 question to answer or understand.
The endless strings of “If only I had done this or hadn’t done that, maybe he wouldn’t have taken his life” haunted me for a very long time. To this day, I still have a tendency to wonder “what if I....” What can make things worse are when other people displace their own guilt by placing blame on you.
It is quite a common occurrence with suicide survivors to place blame on themselves or 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 person who died by suicide is the only one who can be properly blamed; as they are the one who has made this decision.
Some people felt I should have felt more anger over my loss than I did. I guess I should have been angry; leaving loved ones behind like that was not a loving thing for him to do. But, I was never angry at him. Instead I felt pity for the pain he must have been feeling to make such an extreme decision as this. These feelings only lead me back to the feelings of guilt. But for many, anger is a very normal part of their grieving process. If nothing else, you may displace your anger towards others.
Seek support from counseling, support groups, books, your faith leader, friends or family who fully understand your grief and who exhibits compassion and patience allowing you to talk through your thoughts and feelings without judgment. Those who do not provide the support you need 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. In the resources below this article, you will find some ideas for support of suicide survivors.
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. 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 also tend to bring on headaches, loss of appetite, sleep disturbances and periods of "unreality." These are quite common to experience and do not mean that you are going crazy.
Refrain from making major decisions in your life shortly after the death. Your grief may distort your ability to handle changes and to make sound choices. Despite your grief, feelings of depression and lack of interest to do so, realize that it will be important for you to take as good of care of yourself as you can.
Know that you will never be the same again, but you can
survive and go beyond just surviving.
- Depression Cycle, Redirecting Your Mind over the Matter
Since thoughts feed into our feelings and those feelings feed back into our thoughts, these negative thoughts can keep us trapped in a viscous cycle of self defeat and depression.
- Feeling Powerless; Overcoming Learned Helplessness
Learned helplessness is a feeling of having no control over the situation and being powerless to finding a solution that can change their fearful, painful or limiting position within some situations.
- Repressed Anger; The Volcano Within
Repressed anger and resentment might have a tendency to grow within us, like a volcano building up heat and steam before erupting, when we become overly helpful to others.