There are few situations in life that are more traumatic – indeed, devastating – than the loss of a loved one by suicide. If you’ve found yourself a suicide loss survivor, your life may seem understandably bleak at the moment. Recognizing that grim reality, there are six truths that a survivor of suicide loss needs to understand and can take heart in recognizing:
- The loss of your loved one isn’t your fault
- Your grief is and will remain complicated
- Don’t be ashamed
- You still have a life
- You are not alone
- Healing is possible
The Loss of Your Loved One Isn’t Your Fault
A common emotional response to the loss of a family member or friend to suicide is self-blame. Family members and friends of a person who takes his or her own life frequently blame themselves for the suicide. A key truth you must recognize is that the suicide of your loved one is not your fault.
Suicide is a highly complicated, volatile act. The stark reality is that in most cases a variety of complicated factors influence an individual to entertain suicidal ideations and make the decision to commit suicide. In the overall scheme of things, that decision and the subsequent action to commit suicide is not your fault.
Your Grief Is and Will Remain Complicated
There is always a grieving process associated with the death of a loved one. When a family member or friend dies by suicide, the associated grieving process of survivors of suicide loss is an even more complicated matter.
Many people utilize five distinct stages to illustrate the grief process:
While you will experience these emotions when grieving the loss of a loved one by suicide, these stages of grief are significantly complicated by two other associated feelings. These include the idea that you are somehow at least partially at fault for the suicide of a loved one. In addition, they include a sense of shame that oftentimes attaches to the suicide of someone in your life. Shame particularly becomes an issue when the person who takes his or her life is a family member.
Don’t Be Ashamed
Shame already has been the topic of discussion a couple of times in this presentation about the six truths that a survivor of suicide loss needs to understand. Suicide and mental health issues have persistent and unfortunate stigmas attached to them. As a consequence, oftentimes survivors of suicide loss admit that they experience a sense of shame over the manner in which their loved one died.
The bottom line is that you do not need to carry the added burden of being ashamed about the manner in which your loved one died. As has been noted, shame only compounds the other emotions that naturally arise when a loved one dies, including when a family member or friend dies by suicide.
Overcoming shame may necessitate reaching out and obtaining support, guidance, and assistance from a grief therapist or through participation in a grief support group. There are a good many different resources for survivors of suicide loss, including grief support groups and grief therapists.
You Still Have a Life
In the aftermath of the death of a loved one, the course of our lives necessarily changes, at least to some degree. The same certainly holds true when a family member or friend dies by suicide.
Although life necessarily changes, perhaps even becomes more difficult in many different ways, you do still have a life. In time, you may even come to realize that pursuing a fulfilling, healthy, and even joyful life is an appropriate way in which to pay tribute to a loved one who died by suicide. In the final analysis, you can grow and live life to its fullest despite the tragic loss of a loved one.
You Are Not Alone
In the aftermath of the loss of a family member or friend to death by suicide, it is important that you understand that you are not alone. Every year, thousands of people find themselves maneuvering through the challenging aftermath of losing a loved one as the result of suicide.
As mentioned previously, there are helpful support groups for survivors of suicide loss. There are other therapeutic options available to you as well. In addition, you might consider turning to a minister if you’re a participant in some sort of faith organization. You may also have a trusted person in your life that you can turn to following the death of a loved one by suicide.
Healing Is Possible
Finally, you need to understand that healing is possible. You can get through the grieving process following the loss of a loved one by suicide in a healthy, constructive manner. You ultimately can build the foundation for a life that includes acceptance, contentment, and even joy.