Talking Openly About the Suicide of a Loved One Can Help With Emotional Healing

Across the United States, the suicide rate generally has been on an upswing over the past decade, and rather significantly so. As of now, California has a suicide rate that is a bit lower than the national average. However, there is no guarantee that the existing suicide rate in the state will hold. With the continual increase in the national suicide rate, attention naturally is focused on those individuals who contemplate and attempt suicide. Suicide prevention is vital. With that said, the struggles of those left behind after the suicide of a loved one are coming into sharper focus as well. In this regard, grief therapists have concluded that talking more openly about the suicide of a loved one can aid in emotional healing and healthy grieving.

Suicide Statistics in the United States

Before diving into a frank discussion about talking openly about the suicide of a loved one as an element of emotional healing and healthy grieving, some basic information about suicide in the United States can be helpful. As mentioned a moment ago, the suicide rate in the U.S.A. has been on an upswing in the past 10 years. The suicide rate rose 24% from 2007 to 2017, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This trend is thought to have continued since that time as well. 

The most alarming suicide statistic involves people from the ages of 10 to 24. The suicide rate among people 10 to 24 years old jumped a stunning 56% during this same time period. 

About 50% of American adults have been directly exposed to at least one suicide during the course of their lifetimes. Of that number, 35% of these individuals self-report that they are suffering or did suffer moderate to severe emotional distress as a result of suicide loss, according to the Journal of Affective Disorders. 

Newer Therapy Involves Candid Discussion of Moment of Hearing of Loved One’s Suicide

Some grief therapists that focus on people dealing with the aftermath of a loved one’s suicide have developed a new protocol that appears to be demonstrating positive results. This new course of therapy involves a candid discussion by a grieving person about the moment that individual learned of a loved one’s death by suicide. 

The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry reported on the therapy modality involving candidly talking about the moment a person learned of a loved one’s suicide. The report indicates that the results of this course of therapy are proving hopeful. 

The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry specifically reported on a study of 58 individuals who were grieving a suicide loss. 65% of the individuals in the study who received treatment that focused on discussing the moment of hearing of a loved one’s suicide were either very much improved or much improved when it came to grief. Of these individuals, 40% has suicidal thoughts of their own before openly discussing the moment they learned a loved one took his or her own life. After engaging in this type of open discussion, none of these individuals entertained suicidal thoughts.   

Immediate Interaction With Survivors of Suicide Loss

As a result of the growing appreciation among experts that survivors of suicide loss can benefit significantly by addressing their emotional needs through talking openly and candidly about the death of a loved one, early professional intervention is more widely recommended. In some communities, including in California, trained volunteers are accompanying first responders to the scenes of possible suicide cases. Oftentimes, these teams bear the moniker of LOSS, or Local Outreach to Suicide Survivors. These LOSS teams typically consist of a mental health professional with a grief counseling background together with one or two other individuals who’ve lost a loved one to suicide. 

The objective of LOSS teams accompanying first responders is to convey to survivors of suicide loss that support is immediately available to them. As part of that objective is providing survivors of suicide loss with the ability to share their feelings and emotions beginning directly after a loved one has taken his or her own life. 

Open Discussion and Lessening the Shame Oftentimes Associated With Suicide

A crucial additional benefit exists in a therapeutic process that includes open discussion of suicide loss. Many survivors of suicide experience a considerable amount of shame. Shame stems from a number of factors, including a sense among many suicide survivors that they failed their loved one by not somehow being able to prevent that individual from taking his or her life. An important reality is that the more people talk openly about their own experiences associated with suicide loss, the less of a stigma attaches to the loss of a loved one who dies at his or her own hand. The widespread sense of shame oftentimes associated with suicide loss becomes less of an issue.