Logo Are You Feeling Suicidal? How to Help Someone Have You Lost Someone to Suicide? Understanding Suicide
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Losing a loved one to suicide may be the most excruciating event you will ever have to endure. In the days, weeks, and months after a suicide, survivors can feel like they are riding an emotional roller coaster that is unlike any other time in life. You will experience the grief that most people feel after a death. As a “Survivor of Suicide,” you are also walking down a corridor of guilt, confusion, emotional turmoil and endless questions that don’t come with answers that makes any sense.

It is estimated that for every completed suicide there are 6 survivors who are intimately affected by that death. When averaged out, in the US 100 people die every day from suicide.  That’s 600 new survivors every day.  Yet we often feel completely alone in this unique grief process.  Due to the stigma, guilt, and anger associated with suicide, we can easily become disconnected from help at a time when we need it the most.

You may wonder how long you will be feeling this intense pain. When will you “get over it?”  At some point people may even start suggesting that it’s time to move on and start focusing on other parts of your life. The truth is, you will never “get over it.”  Hope lies in getting through it, …and you will get through it!  Time and support from caring family and friends will be the key to eventually accepting your life as it now…forever changed.

There is no formula for how to grieve, or right and wrong way to get through this. One loved one may be really quiet and withdrawn, while another has become the champion for suicide prevention in their community.  Every grief process is as individual and unique as the person grieving.

Along this difficult grief journey you should come to expect that you may backslide from time to time. Grief is not linear and often comes in waves, sometimes tidal waves. You may find yourself doing just fine and then all of a sudden it feels like you back to square one. Don’t be discouraged, this is natural.

 It might take years to restore your emotional well being, but rest assured….. it will get easier.

Choosing self destructive behaviors will not make this easier, and may complicate life even more.   It’s true that as a Survivor of Suicide we are at an increased risk for suicide.  It’s not the answer. Getting as much help and support as you need, is.  A support group for suicide survivors or a professional counselor who has experience with suicide grief is highly recommended.

Suicide Grief is Different

The person you have lost took their own life. And that fact makes a world of difference for those who are left behind to grieve. This can be further complicated by a violent end to their life.  All of these factors affect the person who is grieving.

You will likely experience the common stages of grief, not in any particular order, and you may revisit these stages at any time. They are generally known as Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. As a Survivor of Suicide you may also face a unique set of painful experiences. Endless questioning why, Guilt, Blame, Anger at the loved one for having chosen to die instead of life with you…then guilt for being angry at them.  Talking with others who have also gone through this experience can ease this painful process in a unique and effective way.

You may encounter painful memories or have flash backs, particularly if the death was violent. These can be triggered by a scent, something you see/hear or a favorite food. When this happens know that the intensity of feeling will soon pass. Your body is remembering and trying of make sense of the traumatic loss. It’s normal.

Sometimes people will say what seem to be really insensitive remarks. Suicide is generally misunderstood and people often feel inept at offering you comfort. . this is simply human nature. Try not to be too hard on them.

Why did they do it?

Why? As a Survivor of Suicide, I wish I could answer this question.  What I know is that your loved one was in so much pain, that they could no longer see other possible solutions to relieving that pain.  Nearly all suicidal people do not want to die, they just want to make the pain they are experiencing stop. The stigma associated with suicide and mental health problems can often leave a person unwilling to seek help.  It may seem like a catalyzing event that occurred just before your loved on died is the reason for their choice.  A relationship ending, job loss, legal problems, financial difficulties or other events may seem insurmountable to some, yet others are able to get through them.

 As we search for the why??, we may look at this event as the reason our loved one chose suicide. We have found that its almost never just one reason, and that looking deeper we often find signs of emotional distress that existed for quite some time. Stressful life events happen to everyone, a depressed and suicidal person is less able to cope.

Struggling with the question of why is often a necessary part of this unique grief experience.  There will come a time that you can hopefully accept that a satisfactory explanation does not exist.  Even if it did, it would not change what has happened.  Once you begin to let go of “why,” you will have taken a leap toward acceptance, and continue to build a bridge towards healing. 

Don’t try to go it alone

There are lots of people who care and understand what you are going through. They are ready, willing, and able to help. During this long journey you will find support is surprising ways. Friends may show up that you hadn’t realized cared so much, Employees or employers may be especially understanding. Let them help you. Use their support. Give yourself permission to take care for yourself as often as you need to.

Support Groups provide a valuable resource for survivors of suicide. You can meet and talk with others who understand what you are going through.

Books about suicide and healing offer a great resource for comfort and support for many survivors.

Mental Health Professionals can offer tremendous guidance and healing. Don’t be afraid to ask if they have experience in survivor grief, since these this particular grief process is so unique.

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Macomb County Suicide Prevention Coalition
The Macomb County Suicide Prevention Coalition (MCSPC) is incorporated as a stand-alone charitable organization governed by concerned professionals and citizens. The MCSPC is not a corporate affiliate of either Macomb County Community Mental Health or the County of Macomb.

The contents of this website were made possible by the U.S. Department of Education’s Integrating Schools and Mental Health Systems Grant. However, the contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the Department of Education and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government