Loss by Suicide-A Different Kind of Grief

Woman in black dress standing with hand on casket in funeral home, holding white lilies.

At some point in our lives, we will lose someone we love. Grief can be a very complicated and heavy thing, that doesn’t necessarily go away but definitely gets easier. Everyone grieves differently, and there is no perfect way to deal with losing someone you love.

When you lose someone to suicide, the grieving process can be quite different. There is often shock, sadness, guilt, and anger tied to the loss. While the process can be different for the person experiencing the grief, it can also be perceived as different from the outside. Often when you lose someone to old age, an accident, or a terminal illness, the loss gains sympathy and compassion.

However sometimes when you lose someone to suicide, there can sometimes be judgement and blame from the outside. This is why the grief can be so different when suicide is involved. Not only is the loved one blaming themselves, the people around them can sometimes put that blame on them as well.

Focusing on the happier times with your loved one is part of grieving. Thinking back on fond memories, and talking about the more positive times can help encourage acceptance and fill the void of loss. However with suicide, the memories can be clouded with anger and sadness. When you don’t understand why your loved one took their own life, positive memories can be harder to remember than negative ones.

According to Deborah Serani Psy.D. and her article on Psychology Today, there are a few ways to help a survivor of suicide:

  1. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge the death. 
  2. Ask the survivor if and how you can help.
  3. Encourage openness.
  4. Be patient.
  5. Listen.

Like any type of loss, the people that surround the survivor can be stuck with how to respond or act. And it can come off as neglect or like the person doesn’t care. But usually it’s a lack of knowledge on how to help. Making sure you are verbally letting the person know how much you care, and asking them how they would like to be helped during this difficult time can go a long way.

If you are the survivor of someone who has died by suicide, Dr Serani also has some tips:

  1. Ground yourself. Remind yourself every day that you are not responsible for your loved ones decision. Do not let guilt become a part of your process.
  2. Don’t put a limit on your grief. It takes time. And however long it takes, or whatever you need to get through it is okay.
  3. Plan ahead. Sometimes certain places, dates, memories can be difficult for a long time. This is normal. Know that grief also ebbs and flows. So if you’re doing great for a long time, and a memory sets you back, it’s okay. It’s still a part of the process.
  4. Make connections. Seek help. Whether it’s through a therapist, a friend, or a support group. It can be very beneficial to be surrounded by people who care during this difficult time.
  5. Give yourself permission. To be happy again. To still be sad. To be whatever it is you need to be.

 

If you or anyone you know might be suffering or having thoughts of suicide, seek help at the National Suicide Lifeline 1800-273-8255