Surviving the death of a loved one who has taken their own life is a unique form of grief. You will experience the same stages of grief as any other survivor would, however the intense feelings of shame, anger, and guilt accompany and complicate the grieving process. There are so many questions left unanswered. The feelings of blame can be overwhelming. There is often little discussed. Families may feel embarrassed, or they may lie to others in regards to the method of death of their loved one. Others may feel relief that their loved one’s irresolvable life is over and that person is not longer struggling. This leads to further feelings of guilt and shame. It is crucial for survivors to remember that there are always other solutions, even if their loved one was not able to discover that for themselves.
As you work through your grief, you must first address the guilt and shame you are feeling. Addressing these feelings will allow you to begin to accept that you are not responsible for someone else taking their own life. As you process these thoughts, you will come to a place of forgiveness for yourself and for your loved one. This will allow you to continue through the grieving process. You will also begin to remember and celebrate the person for who they were, rather than the way they died.
Grieving a suicide can create a sense of isolation. It is often more difficult to reach out and share our heartache with others for fear they will judge us. However, the greatest level of comfort and healing will be found in those around you, but especially through Suicide Survivor Support Groups. In weeks to come, Memory-Of and I will provide you with a safe place to heal with others that have survived the loss of a loved one through suicide. We will facilitate several support groups online related to a variety of areas. There are also many resources that I can offer both online and offline for you during this time. The voice of another survivor provides calmness within, an understanding of your pain, unlike anyone else.
Today we will take a glimpse into the possible reasons for suicide. In the grieving process, understanding is a stepping stone to healing. As stated above, each person’s reason is unique. However, we can look at some generalities to provide a touch of clarity.
For some, we may have had the chance to read a note left behind, which may have given us a glimpse of a reason. For others, we may never know. Those who have received notes may feel a sense of relief or burden depending on what was shared. Those who do not have the opportunity to read a note will be forever left with unanswered questions. But what we do know is the common underlying factor is an intense psychological pain and deep feeling of hopelessness experience by the person who has taken their own life. Most often the person feels they are in a completely unrecoverable situation in their life. They are unable to see any clearing in the future. These feelings lead to the sense of hopelessness.
This, along with other factors (such as psychological illness), can lead to suicidal thoughts. It is a fearful cycle for those who live it. The person’s ability to cope and reason has diminished dramatically. This can occur through a poor self-esteem or psychological illness. They may have felt they had no ability to control the chaos in their life. They may turn to alcohol or drugs to attempt to soothe their pain. This form of coping only intensifies the feelings of hopelessness. It lowers their inhibitions and raises their impulsivity. The pain and loneliness they are feeling, along with the lack of resolution for the problem, leads to suicide.
Often, survivors struggle with the question of why didn’t I know? Could I have stopped this tragedy? This is part of the source of complicated grief. We question ever moment of their last days, conversations, and emails. Often we are left with more unanswered questions. What is most important to remember is that it is not your fault. It is estimated in the United States that 50,000 people take their own lives each year. We will never have the answers. But what we can take comfort in is the hope that through their death, we are able to educate others in the prevention of suicide. Often, there are many life lessons taught through the death of a loved one by suicide.
As a therapist I am here to offer support and understanding during this time of healing. Do not hesitate to contact me. The sharing of your pain aides in the healing of your heart. Together we will work to relinquish the shame and guilt. We will work to remember the many good times, memorializing the joy, rather than the way of death. I can offer many resources from online support groups, local chapters, and excellent books.