Survivors of the suicide of a student or young person face particularly striking challenges. Perhaps these are no more pronounced than they are in the grieving process. With this in mind, there are some key, fundamental steps associated with a healthy grieving process following the death of a student by suicide. These are:
- Accept the reality of the loss
- Experience the pain of grief
- Adjust to an environment without the deceased student
- Establish an enduring connection with the deceased student while embarking on a “new” life
Before diving into these four elements associated with healthy grieving following the death of a student by suicide, an important point about the grief process must be made: Every individual grieves in his or her own way. There is no set template for the manner in which a person should grieve the loss of a person under any circumstances, including the death of a young person by suicide.
In addition, it is important to note that grieving is a healthy response to loss. Grief is universal. As King Solomon said in the Old Testament:
It is better to go to a house of mourning than go to a house of feasting for death is the destiny of everyone. The living should take this to heart.
Accept the Reality of the Loss
In the immediate aftermath of the death of a student by suicide, some denial certainly is to be expected. In fact, some level of denial about what has occurred can be deemed healthy. This is because some denial directly following the almost unimaginable death of a young person by suicide allows a person some time and space to absorb more completely the tremendous weight of what happened.
With that noted, ultimately in order for healthy grieving to progress, the survivor of a child suicide loss must gain a sense of acceptance. There must be an abandonment of denial and a surrendering to the reality of what has occurred.
This necessitates an acknowledgement of the loss and a recognition that a person cannot pretend or fanaticize that the death by suicide did not happen. When it comes to the four fundamental steps of healthy grieving, accepting the reality of the loss itself must happen before a person is capable of beginning to move through a healthy grieving process.
Experience the Pain of Grief
The death of a loved one is painful. The pain associated with the death by suicide of a young person can be profoundly more painful yet.
We live in a culture in which pain is to be avoided whenever possible. If we face the prospect of something uncomfortable, let alone something painful, we all tend to do whatever we can to avoid that discomfort or pain.
The stark reality is this: Avoidance only works to compound and worsen our pain.
When it comes to undertaking a healthy grieving process following the death of a young person by suicide, a person ultimately must acknowledge and experience the pain of that loss. A survivor of the suicide of a student needs to allow the emotions of that death into his or her consciousness. When that occurs, a survivor of a student suicide loss is able to begin to process those feelings.
The processing of those emotions oftentimes includes sharing them with a trusted family member or friend. There are grief counselors that specialize specifically in assisting people grieving the death of a loved one by suicide. There are grief support groups specifically designed for survivors of suicide loss.
Beyond talking to someone else, there are other ways in which the emotions associated with losing a loved one to a death by suicide can be expressed:
- Writing a song
- Making a video
Indeed, the ways in which a person can express emotions associated with the loss of a loved one by suicide are as varied and unique as each individual.
When it comes to this step in the healthy grieving process it is important to remember that emotions are perfectly natural. Trying to block them or suppress them is not.
Adjust To an Environment Without the Deceased Student
The third fundamental step associated with healthy grieving following the death of a student by suicide is striving to adjust to a new environment. In other words, you must take steps to adjust to life without the deceased person in it. Oftentimes, people refer to this as adjusting to the new normal.
The new normal comes into existence whether a person accepts it or not. Oftentimes, the major issue preventing a person to adjust to the new normal is a pervasive and even intense feeling that doing so somehow is a betrayal of the person who has died by suicide.
In order to overcome an inability to adjust to an environment without the deceased young person in it, an individual may have to obtain professional support and assistance through a grief therapist. In addition, participating in group therapy can also be a helpful avenue to take.
Establish an Enduring Connection With the Deceased Student While Embarking on a “New” Life
Even after a person no longer is physically present with us on Earth, the joyful life experiences previously shared can endure. A survivor of suicide can fashion an enduring connection with a deceased family member, friend, or other person by thinking upon the time spent together in a positive light.
In the final analysis, healthy grieving is not necessarily an easy endeavor. Merely because healthy grieving can prove challenging in a number of ways doesn’t mean that pursuing it isn’t an important – indeed, vital – objective.