Articles for the Month of March 2016

Moving Past Suicide of a Loved One

By Cathy Neville, LPC, NCC, on March 16, 2016

Handling The Loss Of A Loved One By Suicide

Moving Past The Suicide of a Loved One

Our feelings of abandonment and grief are hard to bear. No one could possibly know the pain you are feeling.  Someone you trusted to be there is gone, leaving so much unresolved and unsettled. Moving past the trauma of suicide to mourning your loved one becomes a complicated mix of feelings, regrets, and a different kind of sorrow. How can you cope without being overwhelmed by sadness, shock, anger, or betrayal? Will you carry your unreconciled relationship with you forever?

The tragedy of suicide certainly complicates your grief and loss. Emotional acknowledgement is very important.

Observe and recognize these emotions that often accompany loved ones grieving a loss by suicide:

  • Shock. “Why?” may be your prevailing thought for a while.
  • Isolation. You may feel like no one “gets” your grief.  You find people avoiding you (they probably don’t know what to say).
  • Guilt. You wonder if you could have saved him or her if you had done something differently.
  • Anger/Blame. You may feel therapy or medication should have prevented this.
  • Abandonment. You may feel left behind.  “How could he leave me?”
  • Anxiety. You worry that others blame you for not doing more.
  • Relief. You may feel released from your loved one’s mental health issues or addictions.
  • Depression. You experience hopelessness and unrelenting sadness.

All of these feelings are normal responses when we lose someone to suicide.

The tragedy of suicide can give you the sense that you are totally alone.

  • Though it’s difficult, don’t isolate. Try to maintain your connections and relationships.
  • Do your best to be with family and friends. If you are able to talk about the suicide, share your overwhelm and distress, and simply ask for their support.
  • Consider a survivor’s support group. Sometimes it’s more helpful to connect with people unrelated to your everyday life.
  • Individual therapy may also be a good place to deal with difficult emotions or “stuck” responses that inhibit healthy coping mechanisms.

Trying to recover from your loved one’s suicide the “right” way is wasted energy and lends itself to unnecessary self-judgment.

You needn’t rush the process. Grieve this your own way.

Getting “back to normal” is not the goal. Healing is the objective.

The grief process may take longer or look different than people think it should.

Visit the grave or memorial site only when you’re ready.

Discuss your loved one’s life and struggles only when you feel you can.

Go slow and heal completely.

Be good to yourself. Suicide is traumatic.

Suicide is traumatic.

It’s easy to neglect your mind and body, which just exacerbates strain and emotional distress. Take time to meet your own needs.

Exercise and a healthy diet foster healing of the mind and body.

Endorphins alleviate depression, improve sleep cycles, and relieve stress.

Try not to overeat or miss many meals.

It may be tempting to distract yourself from the pain of your loss with food, alcohol, nicotine, or prescription drugs. Please don’t.

Find healthier ways to feel better.

Find a healthy way to say good-bye.

If your relationship was contentious or difficult, a journal or letter can help you let go of the blame, anger and abandonment caused by your loved one’s choice. It can also help you release longstanding issues you never had an opportunity to address.

Consider volunteering for suicide prevention groups, or dedicating a scholarship or research fund.

It may also comfort you to research suicide and mental illnesses for a deeper understanding of your loved one’s choice.

As you work through your grief, set time aside to be with your feelings of loss.  Many people think if they stay busy and distracted, they will avoid feeling the pain of their loss.  The truth is just the opposite.  This type of avoidance will prolong the grieving process and oftentimes lead to complicated grief and depression.

Call a grief counselor.

If you have lost someone you love by suicide, you may want to consider seeking the help of a counselor.  Grief and loss counselors have training and experience in helping people who have suffered loss find the strength and the coping skills they need to move through their trauma and grief to a path of healing.  If you need grief counseling and live in San Antonio or its surrounding area, call me.