Suicide Grief Support – Tips & Resources


The Impact of Suicide 

  • In 2015, 44,193 people died by suicide in the United States.
  • It is estimated that there are 25 suicide attempts per each suicide death.  So in 2015 there were approximately 1,104,825 suicide attempts, or one every 30 seconds.
  • On average there were 121 suicides every day in the US, one suicide every 13 minutes.

http://www.suicidology.org/Portals/14/docs/Resources/FactSheets/2015/2015datapgsv1.pdf?ver=2017-01-02-220151-870

http://www.suicidology.org/Portals/14/docs/Resources/FactSheets/SurvivingAfterSuicide.pdf

  • The loss of a loved one by suicide is often shocking, painful and unexpected. The grief that ensues can be intense, complex, and long term. Grief work is an extremely individual and unique process; each person will experience it in their own way and at their own pace.
  • Grief does not follow a linear path. Furthermore, grief doesn’t always move in a forward direction.
  • There is no time frame for grief. Survivors should not expect that their lives will return to their prior state. Survivors aim to adjust to life without their loved one.
  • These feelings are normal reactions and the expression of them is a natural part of grieving. At first, and periodically during the following days/months of grieving, survivors may feel overwhelmed by their emotions. It is important to take things one day at a time.
  • Crying is the expression of sadness; it is therefore a natural reaction after the loss of a loved one.
  • Survivors often struggle with the reasons why the suicide occurred and whether they could have done something to prevent the suicide or help their loved one. Feelings of guilt typically ensue if the survivor believes their loved one’s suicide could have been prevented.
  •  At times, especially if the loved one had a mental disorder, the survivor may experience relief.
  •  There is a stigma attached to suicide, partly due to the misunderstanding surrounding it. As such, family members and friends of the surivior may not know what to say or how and when to provide assistance. They may rely on the survivors’s initiative to talk about the loved one or to ask for help.
  •  Shame or embarrassment might prevent the surivior from reaching out for help. Stigma, ignorance and uncertainty might prevent others from giving the necessary support and understanding. Ongoing support remains important to maintain family and friendship relations during the grieving process.
  •  Survivors sometimes feel that others are blaming them for the suicide. Survivors may feel the need to deny what happened or hide their feelings. This will most likely exacerbate and complicate the grieving process.
  • When the time is right, survivors will begin to enjoy life again. Healing does occur.
  •  Many survivors find that the best help comes from attending a support group for survivors of suicide where they can openly share their own story and their feelings with fellow survivors without pressure or fear of judgement and shame. Support gourps can be a helpful source of guidance and understanding as well as a support in the healing process.

 

Common emotions experienced in grief are:

  • Shock
  • Denial
  • Guilt
  • Anger
  • Despair
  • Disbelief
  • Stress
  • Sadness
  • Pain
  • Shame
  • Hopelessness
  • Numbness
  • Rejection
  • Loneliness
  • Abandonment
  • Confusion
  • Self-blame
  • Anxiety
  • Helplessness
  • Depression 
  • It is a myth that children don’t grieve. Children may expeience the same range of feelings as do adults; the expression of that gief might be done different as children have fewer tools for communicating their feelings.
  •  Children are especially vulnerable to feelings of guilt and abandonment. It is important for them to know that the death was not their fault and that someone is there to take care of them.
  • Secrecy about the suicide in the hopes of protecting children may cause further complications. Explain the situation and answer children’s questions honestly and with age-appropriate responses.

Beyond Surviving: Suggestions for Survivors by Iris M. Bolton 

 

Hundreds of books have been written about loss and grief. Few have addressed the aftermath of suicide for survivors. Here again, there are no answers; only suggestions from those who have lived through and beyond the event. I’ve compiled their thoughts.

  1. Know you can survive. You may not think so, but you can.
  2. Struggle with “why” it happened until you no longer need to know “why” or until you are satisfied with partial answers.
  3. Know you may feel overwhelmed by the intensity of your feelings but all your feelings are normal.
  4. Anger, guilt, confusion, forgetfulness are common responses. You are not crazy; you are in mourning.
  5. Be aware you may feel appropriate anger at the person, at the world, at God, at yourself. It’s okay to express it.
  6. You may feel guilty for what you think you did or did not do. Guilt can turn into regret, through forgiveness.
  7. Having suicidal thoughts is common. It does not mean that you will act on those thoughts.
  8. Remember to take one moment or one day at a time.
  9. Find a good listener with whom to share. Call someone if you need to talk.
  10. Don’t be afraid to cry. Tears are healing.
  11. Give yourself time to heal.
  12. Remember, the choice was not yours. No one is the sole influence in another’s life.
  13. Expect setbacks. If emotions return like a tidal wave, you may only be experiencing a remnant of grief..
  14. Try to put off major decisions.
  15. Give yourself permission to get professional help.
  16. Be aware of the pain of your family and friends.
  17. Be patient with yourself and with others who may not understand.
  18. Set your own limits and learn to say no.
  19. Steer clear of people who want to tell you what or how to feel.
  20. Know that there are support groups that can be helpful, such as Compassionate Friends or Survivors of Suicide groups. If not, ask a professional to help start one.
  21. Call on your personal faith to help you through.
  22. It is common to experience physical reactions to your grief, e.g., headaches, loss of appetite, inability to sleep.
  23. The willingness to laugh with others and at yourself is healing.
  24. Wear out your questions, anger, guilt, or other feelings until you can let them go. Letting go doesn’t mean forgetting.
  25. Know that you will never be the same again, but you can survive and even go beyond just surviving.

From Dunne, E.J., McIntosh, J.L., Dunne-Maxim, K. (1987). Suicide and its aftermath: Understanding and counseling the survivors, Appendix C, pp. 289-290, permission given without copyright infringement for use in therapy and self-help groups.