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.


How A Gut Check Can Improve Your Mood

Gut Bacertia

Gut Bacteria Affects Mood

By Cathy Neville, LPC, on June 29, 2015

We feel what we eat.
Deeply, in our guts.
It’s true.More and more recent research confirms it. Your gut is literally filled with the stuff of emotion; and if we don’t address the needs of our bellies, many of us will find ourselves very sad, very anxious and in need of a gut overhaul.  A gut check may be just what we need!
Let’s look at the science:

Your gut contains healthy bacteria in the lining of the digestive tract.

That wealth of “good bacteria” is called the microbiome.

The digestive tract and its bacteria are actually the nexus of our nervous system, hormonal system and immune system.

Gut bacteria pull out the vitamins we need for use elsewhere in our bodies and help our cells respond to damaging germs and foreign invaders. Also, a delicate and important balance of the molecules that regulate emotion, and manufacture important neurotransmitters like the brain messenger, serotonin, occur there.

What happens in the gut keeps us healthy, physically and mentally.

If the digestive tract is so closely linked to our mood, it makes sense that improving digestion and bacterial quality/quantity in the tract lining could improve a mood disorder.

How do we improve digestion and the microbiome?
  • Probiotics.

Why? Probiotics are teaming with the good bacteria that also aid in obesity prevention, provide hormonal balancing, and support optimal kidney function, among many other benefits.

In 2012, Dr. Kristin Tillich led a team of researchers who conducted a study that proved a “gut-brain” connection. The UCLA study tested human brain functioning of 36 women, following four weeks of eating probiotic-laden yogurt. They reported, “The intake of an FMPP [probiotic] by healthy women affected activity of brain regions that control central processing of emotion and sensation.”

In a 2013 press release, Dr. Tillich noted, “Our findings indicate that some of the contents of yogurt may actually change the way our brain responds to the environment. When we consider the implications of this work, the old sayings ‘you are what you eat’ and ‘gut feelings’ take on new meaning.”

  • Prebiotics

Now, there’s also solid evidence to support the use of prebiotics to ease depression and anxiety specifically.

How do we know? In the first-ever human study on the subject, researchers at Oxford University discovered that ingesting prebiotic bacteria seemed to inspire an “anti-anxiety effect.”

What’s a prebiotic? It’s a non-digestible food that feeds the body over and above what could be provided through diet. It helps maintain the healthy probiotic bacteria in your gut.

In a study published this year, a dose of prebiotic reduced participants’ desire to focus on the negative. Cortisol, the “stress hormone,” was reduced in female participants as well.

Stress and negative attention are huge factors in depression and anxiety disorders. The positive aspects of prebiotics in the 2015 research were so significant, researchers say it is as helpful as ingesting an antidepressant or anti-anxiety drug.

So, the real question is how can we claim some of those benefits for ourselves?

Facilitate better bacterial balance in your body by:

  • Eating a high-fiber, plant-based diet
  • Avoiding a high-fat diet
  • Avoiding high sugar foods
  • Ingesting more complex carbohydrates

Increase your consumption of probiotic foods that contain good bacteria. Try:

  • Yogurt with live active cultures
  • Kefir
  • Sauerkraut
  • Miso
  • Kimchi
  • Fermented pickles

Increase prebiotic foods that feed beneficial bacteria. Eat:

  • Banana
  • Whole grains
  • Honey
  • Onions
  • Leeks
  • Garlic
  • Artichokes

These findings, supported by scientific evidence, suggest that it is possible to improve our sadness, fear responses, and other stubborn mood problems through diet.

How exciting and empowering when it comes to taking charge of our mental health!

How Depression Keeps You Down with Negative Thinking

By Cathy Neville, LPC, on May 3, 2015

San Antonio Therapist


Negative thoughts wear you down. 

Depression likes it that way.

Negative thinking is like the persistent whisper of the neighborhood gossip. Distracting, generalizing, and full of half-truths.It drains you like the critical opinion of a nit-picking parent. Judging, harsh, finding fault after fault.

It’s like the belittling commentary of a controlling boss. Pressuring, questioning, and undermining your confidence. Negative thoughts, once they’re off and running, like to keep running. Soon, your head is full of so much self-doubt and internal pessimism that before long, you’re defeated and deflated. Soon, your depression is empowered.And you feel helpless to do anything but spiral further and further down. But remember…Depression wants you down there. Hurting, hiding, thinking one sad thought after another. Trapped by your own mind.Depression, egged on by negative thinking, will actually have you believing that one bad day means they’re all bad.Assuming all the mistakes of your past and present add up to an inevitable future mess.It will keep you too wrapped up in worries and ruminations to live above the sadness.To feel better at all, you have to accept that your thoughts control how you feel.You have to learn to fight the negativity in your own mind.It’s not easy. It probably won’t feel good at first.But depression must not be allowed to win.To gain the advantage, you’ll need to change the course of your thoughts with renewed commitment and new skills.To keep depression weak and the spiral downward brief, incorporate these strategies to help you reset your mind:Fight Depression: Deal with your negative thinking patterns, also known as cognitive distortions.

How do you think yourself into a depressing corner?

  • Are you guilty of seeing the world as black and white, right or wrong, with no room for the unexpected or compromise?
  • Do you tend to generalize your experiences? Does one failure mean your life is a failure?
  • Are you obsessed with “what if’s” and looming disasters? Do you wonder why you should even try?

There are hosts of ways to end up in a negative thinking rut. Challenge your usual thought patterns. Take a breath and ask yourself if they are really valid.

Fight Depression: Change the backdrop

Buried under the covers, ruminating in a darkened room, or parked in front of the TV are great places to let negative thoughts take root and grow.

It’s better to get outside and soak in the vitamin D.

Inhale like your life and mind depend on it.

Depression doesn’t care much for sunshine and fresh air.

Fight Depression: Embrace Exercise and Relaxation

Negative thoughts have a much easier time sneaking in and taking hold when you are not at your physical best.

Your brain and body need the endorphins that accompany exercise. Those natural chemicals are the key to feeling good.

Your body also needs to rest and let down. Stress and a hectic lifestyle are easily transformed into negativity. Meditate, take long baths, get a massage.

Fight Depression: Reframe your point of reference

Depression wants you all to itself. It attacks your self-worth and ability to connect with others. Negative thinking is often self-oriented, self-doubting, and self-pitying.

It just makes sense to turn your focus outward.

Fight the desire to isolate yourself with unnerving thoughts.

Reach out to friends, family, or a counselor.

Run some of your more persistent negative thoughts by other people and you may obtain a clearer, more accurate perspective.

Depression wants you down there.

Hurting, hiding, sad.

Change your mind. Don’t let it take you down.

If you are struggling from depression that persists and live in the San Antonio area, please contact me or make an appointment online.  Let me help you.

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