With few exceptions, one of the most emotionally traumatic events that can occur during the course of a lifetime is the loss of a loved one by suicide. The challenges faced by a suicide loss survivor fairly can be called overwhelming. With these realities noted, there are five self-help strategies that can be beneficial to you as a suicide loss survivor:
- Ground yourself
- Don’t limit your grief
- Plan ahead
- Make connections
- Give yourself permission
A key strategy that you will want to attempt to follow as a suicide loss survivor is to ground yourself. What this generally means is that you need to take steps necessary to come to terms with the truth. You need to accept the fact that you are not responsible for the death of your family member or friend by suicide. Time and time again, survivors of suicide loss hold themselves responsible for the tragic death of a loved one in this manner. A crucial element of grounding yourself is coming to a clear understanding that you cannot and should not shoulder the blame for the suicide death of a family member or friend.
Don’t Limit Your Grief
The reality is that even under the best of circumstances (if that can be said in relation to the death of a loved one), every individual grieves differently. Grief associated with the death of a family member or friend by suicide necessarily has the potential for being more overwhelming and inherently traumatic.
You must not compare that way in which you grieve the death of a loved one by suicide with what someone else may appear to be doing. You have the absolute right to grieve in your own way and on your own terms.
The five stages of grief can provide you with some concept of the grief process generally. The five stages of grief are:
You may experience the stages of grief in this order in which they typically are presented, at least for discussion purposes. You may not. You may experience more than one of these stages of grief at the same time. You may think you have fully experienced one or another of these grief stages only to find yourself in it again at a future time.
When you feel the time is right, join fellow family members or friends in finding ways in which you can honor the life or mark the memory of a loved one who died by suicide. You can plan ways in which you can celebrate the deceased loved one’s birthday or other milestones. You can consider and plan how major holidays will be celebrated in the future in a way that allows you to move forward but that also honors the memory of a loved one who is no longer with you.
In addition to coming up with ways to memorialize a loved one who is deceased, planning ahead in this manner also assists in lessening the trauma that can be associated with milestone events and major holidays when a loved one has died by suicide.
You do not have to grieve alone in the aftermath of the suicide of a family member or friend. In fact, isolating can make the grieving process far more difficult.
You need to bear in mind that there is a world of difference between taking some time to be alone when mourning and isolating. Taking time to be alone to grieve is a healthy response to the bereavement process. Isolating from others on a persistent basis usually is not.
There are a number of different, healthy connections that can be maintained or made when grieving the loss of a loved one by suicide. Natural connections oftentimes include other family members and friends. The fact that you share a sense of loss with them allows for a unique opportunity through which you can be mutually supportive of one another.
As mentioned previously, grieving the loss of a loved one as the result of suicide can be particularly overwhelming. Consequently, another type of connection you may want to consider making is with a grief therapist. There are grief therapists that specialize in working with individuals like you who’ve experienced the loss of a family member or friend as the result of suicide. In addition, there are grief support groups designed specifically for survivors of suicide loss.
Give Yourself Permission
Finally, when it comes to strategies designed to assist you in coming to terms with the suicide of a family member or friend, you need to give yourself permission. You need to give yourself permission to do a number of different things.
You need to give yourself permission to grieve in the manner and for the time period that works for you. You need to give yourself permission to cry. And, if you are so inclined, you need to give yourself permission to laugh. While the grieving associated with suicide survivor loss is profound, by giving yourself permission to grieve and restore your life, you can take control of the path to healing and recovery.