Losing a loved one to suicide is traumatic. The situation becomes even more profoundly challenging when children or teens are left behind in the aftermath of a family member’s suicide. Here are a variety of considerations that you need to bear in mind when it comes to dealing with suicide loss and effectively reaching out to children and teens.
Chapter One: the Vital Importance of Self-Care After the Suicide of a Loved One
It’s become something of a cliché – the pre-flight mantra on an aircraft that an adult needs to put on his or her own oxygen mask before tending to a child if the need arises. For a myriad of different reasons, the same directive holds true when it comes to assisting a young person following the suicide of a loved one. Before you effectively will be able to tend to the needs of a younger child or a teen after the suicide of a family member or other loved one, you must take care of yourself. You must establish your own self-care regimen to facilitate a healthy grieving process.
Brace Yourself for Powerful Emotions
When it comes to self-care as a prelude to assisting children or teens following a suicide, you need to understand and brace yourself for the emotions that you will face. In other words, you need to prepare yourself to face and begin to address your own emotions in the aftermath of losing a loved one to suicide before you will be of value in providing aid and assistance to your children or teens.
The stark reality is that a loved one’s suicide results in powerful, truly intense emotions. These include:
Shock: You very well may find yourself feeling as if your loved one’s suicide isn’t even real. In addition to disbelief, you may face what best can be described as emotional numbness.
Anger: You may face anger on three fronts. First, you may be angry with your loved one committing suicide. Second, you may also be angry with yourself. You may sincerely feel that you missed important clues in advance of your loved one committing suicide. Third, you may be angry at others for missing your loved one’s suicide intentions.
Guilt: You may also blame yourself for your loved one’s death. You may replay a variety of “what if scenarios” over and over.
Despair: Helplessness may grip you. The sadness and loneliness you experience may be so profound you find yourself contemplating suicide yourself.
Confusion: You will face unanswered questions after a loved one takes his or her own life. Indeed, you likely will forever face unanswerable questions. You may try to make sense of why your loved one took his or her life. However, that process may prove to be futile.
Rejection: You may find yourself wondering why your relationship with your loved one who too his or her life wasn’t enough. By this, it is meant that you may find yourself trying to understand why your relationship was not enough to keep your loved one alive.
Take Care of Yourself Physically
In the aftermath of a suicide of a loved one, and before you really can provide valuable and effective support to children or teens, you must take care of yourself physically. What you must do in this regard may seem simplistic. Taking care of yourself physically may seem like an exercise in common sense. However, time and again, survivors of suicide fail to properly tend to your physical needs.
Taking care of yourself physical following the suicide of a loved one involves no surprises. It involves what you really should be doing anyway:
- Eating properly
- Exercising regularly
- Sleeping an appropriate amount
Develop Healthy Coping Strategies
In the aftermath of a loved one’s suicide, you need to adopt healthy coping strategies as part of your own grief and bereavement process that include:
- Keeping in touch with family, friends, and spiritual leaders for understanding, healing, and comfort.
- Grieve in your own way, at your own time – don’t rush yourself.
- Brace yourself proactively for painful reminders of your loss.
- Expect setbacks in the grief and bereavement process.
- Consider joining a support group for people affected by suicide.
A key element of a healthy coping process is to develop a clear understanding that everyone grieves in his or her own way. Don’t let others impose their expectations about how you should grieve the loss of a loved one by suicide on you.