No one ever told me that grief felt so much like fear.
– C.S. Lewis
Fear is a common response to death and can impact the overall grieving process. This is even more the case when the cause of a loved one’s passing is suicide. The death by suicide of a loved one raises the specter, the fear of who else might be at risk for dying in this manner. Indeed, there are many instances when a survivor may fear that he or she is at risk of death by suicide.
Fear Is a Natural Response to a Death by Suicide
If you are a survivor of a suicide death, you may be fearful, you may be experiencing fear. You may be like others who are survivors of this kind of tragic loss and feel that your fear is misplaced or not even natural.
You must keep this in mind: Fear following the death of a loved one by suicide is natural and commonplace. There is nothing unusual about your feelings of fear and you most definitely are not alone in this regard.
Fear Is Not a One-Time Thing
As you grieve the loss of a family member or friend who died by suicide, keep in mind that experiencing fear will not be a one-time thing. As you grieve, you will experience fear more than one time.
As you go through the grieving process, you will find that experiencing fear will become less frequent. You will notice that feelings of fear will become notably less intense. And then, as you grieve and come to the point of acceptance, you no longer will experience fear associated with this loss.
Face Fear Head-On
If you experience fear in the aftermath of the death of a family member or friend by suicide, you need to consider seriously facing that fear head-on. As part of grief work, there are tactics that you can employ to address the fear associated with this type of loss:
- Acknowledge fear. The initial step in overcoming fear is to admit that it exists. We all have fears. Fear is a part of human nature. Denying or ignoring fear doesn’t make it go away.
- Analyze it. Where does it come from? Is it real or imagined? Can it be put in a different context? For instance, if you think it through to its logical conclusion, what’s the worst that can happen to you? Once you’ve determined what that might be, ask yourself if you can deal with, or overcome it. More often than not, once you go through the process of analyzing it, the fear isn’t as scary as you originally imagined.
- Face it. Allow yourself to feel fear rather than try to mask it over. Act in spite of your fear. Treat fear as a challenge for personal growth. Fear can be an opportunity to become stronger.
- Be persistent. Do the thing you fear over and over again. By doing it repeatedly it loses its power over you and you become less vulnerable to it.
- Develop courage. Sometimes the answer may not be to conquer a particular fear; it may be to develop courage. If you focus too much on any one fear instead of trying to build courage, you may in fact, intensify it. By developing courage you build self-confidence and resilience. You also build a healthy approach towards facing all fear.
Professional Assistance to Deal With Fear
There are cases involving a person mourning the loss of a loved one by suicide who experiences persistent fear that rises to the level of being nearly debilitating. In some rarer instances, a person actually can become debilitated by the fear associated with the loss of a family member or friend by suicide.
If you find yourself unable to effectively address fears associated with the loss of a loved one, you will want to consider seeking assistance and support from a professional. There are counselors and therapists who work specifically with survivors of suicide loss. Emotional signs that you might be in need of professional assistance to deal with this type of fear include:
- Persistent worrying
- Feelings of dread or apprehension
- Believing the worst is going to happen
- “All or nothing” thinking
Behavioral signs that you might be in need of counseling or therapy to address fear include:
- Being watchful for danger
- Avoiding situations or events that cause fear
- Feeling irritable or frustrated in situations that cause fear
- Social withdrawal
- Seeking reassurance
- Compulsive actions, such as repeatedly washing hands
In addition to individual counseling or therapy, there are also group therapy options available to a person working through the aftermath of the loss of a loved one by suicide. Many communities now have regularly meeting suicide survivor support groups that prove very helpful to people grieving this type of loss.