Losing a loved one as a result of a death by suicide is a traumatic event. When we experience something traumatic during the course of our lives, anxiety is a natural response to that type of incident or occurrence. As a survivor of the suicide death of a loved one, you may find yourself experiencing persistent anxiety. You may wonder how anxiety can be addressed. That is the subject of discussion in this article.
Definition of Anxiety
The National Institutes of Health defines anxiety as:
Anxiety is the mind and body’s reaction to stressful, dangerous, or unfamiliar situations. It’s the sense of uneasiness, distress, or dread you feel before a significant event. A certain level of anxiety helps us stay alert and aware, but for those suffering from an anxiety disorder, it feels far from normal – it can be completely debilitating.
Anxiety can impact a person’s life in a variety of different ways. These include impacting an individual’s decision-making ability, socialization, and ability to engage in a healthy grief process following the death of a loved one, including a death that resulted from suicide.
Definition of PTSD
Anxiety following the suicide death of a loved one can take the severe form of post-traumatic stress syndrome or PTSD. As we mention elsewhere in this article, the suicide death of a family member or friend can prove to be a significantly traumatic experience for many people. It certainly has the potential for laying the foundation upon which PTSD can arise.
The Cleveland Clinic defines PTSD as:
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health issue that may develop after a traumatic event. It causes negative, anxious emotions. Some people with PTSD relive the event over and over. Others avoid any reminders of it. PTSD interferes with life, work and relationships. But, medication and counseling can help, even years later.
Group Therapy for a Suicide Death Survivor With Anxiety or Ptsd
You do not have to go it alone if you are a survivor of suicide battling anxiety or PTSD. A first step you might want to consider taking is joining a therapeutic group for people in your position.
Group therapy for suicide death rooted anxiety or PTSD is overseen by a professional therapist. The group itself is comprised of people facing the unique challenges experienced by individuals who have experienced the death of a loved one as a result of suicide.
Individual Therapy or Counseling for Suicide Death Survivor With Anxiety or PTSD
You will also want to consider undertaking individual therapy or counseling designed for a suicide death survivor who is contending with issues like anxiety or PTSD. Indeed, if you have PTSD, therapy or counseling is really a must.
In the 21st century there is a growing number of therapists and counselors who focus their work on assisting and treating individuals who are working through the grief associated with a suicide death in their lives. This includes assisting people with generalized anxiety, social anxiety, depression, PTSD, and other mental health conditions that may be associated with the loss of a family member or friend by suicide.
Suicide Death Survivors, Anxiety Disorders, and Self-Medicating
A matter that suicide death survivors need to be alert to is self-medicating when they experience anxiety, PTSD, or depression. Self-medicating is defined as:
Self-Medicating is a term often used when a person uses drugs or alcohol to deal with mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, or PTSD for example.
Although drugs, including alcohol, are common ways in which people self-medicate, food is also another means by which people engage in this behavior.
Self-medicating with mind-altering or other substances is harmful. The underlying mental health condition is not addressed – in fact, it typically is aggravated.
There are also treatment options available for people who are dealing with self-medicating while afflicted with something like anxiety, depression, or PTSD.
For a Survivor of a Loved One Who Died by Suicide
Gary Roe, in his book Aftermath: Picking Up the Pieces After a Suicide, recommends a breathing practice for individuals experiencing anxiety associated with the death by suicide of a loved one. He suggests doing this two times a day as a means of controlling anxiety:
- Close your eyes
- Breathe in deeply through your nose
- Hold your breath for a moment – about one second
- Breathe back out through your nose
- Keep repeating this process with a focus on your breathing
- If you find yourself having trouble focusing on your breathing, count your breaths and pay attention to the numbers by seeing them in your mind
The amount of time spent on this practice differs from one person to the next. In the end, a person should consider this breathing exercise for a period of time that results in a noticeable lessening of anxiety and at least some increased amount of calmness.