When a loved one chooses suicide, you are left behind with such a violent quake in your world, that abandonment and grief knock you back hard.
Your partner, family member, or friend chose to leave you.
The mourning that ordinarily accompanies death is unimaginably harder, transformed from something inevitable into something intentional and traumatic.
How can you grieve that without being overwhelmed?
The tragedy of suicide may always be with you, but with help, you can slowly begin to gain some perspective and begin to heal.
Acknowledge that you’ve been blindsided.
Realize that you have many feelings swirling around inside. Losing someone close to suicide, may cause you to feel . . .
Isolated. Does anyone understand?
Devastated. How could you have missed the signs?
Accountable. What could you have done, said, or changed?
Angry. Why didn’t the therapist, doctor, medication work?
Guilty. Is it wrong to laugh again or have fun without him/her?
Abandoned. How could he/she leave you?
Anxious. Will his/her family and friends judge you or your actions?
Relieved. His/her depression, addiction, or mental illness is finally over.
Depression symptoms. You can’t sleep, you can’t eat, you can’t do this!
All of these feelings are normal and may or may not be part of your grief.
- Realize that though your loved one left you, you are not alone.
You may find it helpful to reach out to family and friends. If you can, take the initiative; open up about the suicide, share your heartbreak, and ask for their help and support.
A survivor’s support group may encourage and motivate you through the seasons of your grief. Connecting with other’s who have had a similar experience, but are unrelated to you and your everyday life, is often helpful and cathartic.
You may seek out the privacy and expertise of an individual therapist. It’s sometimes better to work through emotions, depression, and coping issues with a professional.
Though it’s difficult, do your best to maintain your relationships. The weeks and months following your loved one’s suicide should not be tackled in isolation.
- Take time. Take all the time you need. You need to grieve your own way.
There is no “right” way to recover from your loved one’s suicide. Put aside thoughts of rushing through the process, getting “back to normal,” or determining before you’re ready that it’s been “long enough”. Your grief process is unique to you. Don’t visit the gravesite until you’re ready. Don’t allow family members to press you for details you’re not ready to give. Go slow, heal, make no apologies.
- Take care of yourself.
As you work through your emotional trauma, take care of your body as well. Exercise alleviates depression and stress and releases endorphins that will improve your ability to rest. Eat well, nourish your body, but try not to overeat to distract yourself from your loss. This also applies to alcohol and prescription drugs; find healthier ways to feel better.
- Be aware of reminders.
For a while, your heart may be too tender to deal with the usual traditions or holiday celebrations. When significant dates approach, give yourself permission to suspend participation.
- Honour your loved one’s life and say goodbye.
Write a letter or keep a journal of the things you weren’t able to say. Allow yourself to cherish memories and invite others to do the same.
It may comfort you to learn all you can about suicide and mental illnesses or to help others in pain. Consider volunteering with a suicide hotline or developing a scholarship in your loved one’s name.
For help with grief following suicide, you might find bereavement counselling useful. Call Neil Ward on 07970 860 711 to arrange an initial counselling appointment.