In the wake of losing someone to suicide, there is much pain and confusion, to say the least. I want to list these five simple truths right up front for those who may need to hear them right away:
- It isn’t your fault.
- Do not be ashamed.
- Your grief is complicated.
- Healing is possible.
- You still have life.
1. It isn’t your fault.
Losing someone to suicide can often fill us with very specific emotions: Guilt. Regret. Blame. But it is important to talk back to these feelings. It is important to realize and understand that you simply cannot carry the weight of someone else’s decision.
Suicide is a very complicated and volatile act. There are a multitude of factors that may influence this unfortunate decision. But ultimately, practicing healthy boundaries means you cannot hold yourself responsible for the decision someone else made, no matter what your role may have been. It is simply too complicated of a matter to pin that responsibility upon a survivor, and most importantly, feelings of guilt, regret, and blame do not help anyone who is left behind. You will likely have a period where you need to explore those feelings and ask those questions, but then it is time to put them to rest. Otherwise, they impede your ability to find healing at all.
2. Do not be ashamed.
Suicide and mental health carry an unfortunate stigma. But all too many survivors of suicide loss know in their heart of hearts that no one is exempt from the possibility of these things occurring. Mental illness, disorders, addiction, and substance abuse know no boundaries when it comes to who may suffer.
Though it is a difficult type of loss to understand, it is not one of which to ever feel ashamed. Shame only compounds grief and creates more barriers between us and healing. Learning to recognize when shame threatens to color your perspective of what has happened is an important part of the healing process.
3. Your grief is complicated.
While you would never want to tally the severity of your grief against another person’s circumstances, what you do need to acknowledge is that suicide loss results in complex grief. No loss is easy to understand, but this particular type is very convoluted due to its self-inflicted nature. Add to that the conditions that often co-occur prior to suicide such as mental illness, substance abuse, or trauma, and it is easy to see why this type of loss is not simply straightforward. That means healing will not be straightforward, either. It is more of an evolving process, step by step.
4. Healing is possible.
In the beginning, this seems like a fairy tale. One you would be hard pressed to entertain. But there are many survivors of suicide loss who have found healing through supportive resources, much time, and much grace. Many go on to create resources for others who experience the same unfortunate circumstances, such as Jan McDaniel, one survivor who provides free resources on her website, Way for Hope.
Almost every community has some type of support group or resource because almost every community is affected by suicide. The statistics are alarming, but good people all over the world are rising to the occasion to provide support for those that must endure this loss.
5. You still have life.
Though it is difficult to go on, we must. In beginning the journey toward healing, we are not forgetting our loved ones. We are honoring them in the best possible way, by pursuing a healthy, fulfilling life that for reasons we may never know, was not possible for our loved ones we lost. We can commemorate their impact on our lives by living in a way that is positive, productive, and inspires and supports others around us. In this way, we perpetuate the love and kindness of our loved ones, we keep it growing, despite our loss.
If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or Text “Hello” to 741-74. Outside the United States, find the number for your location at the International Association of Suicide Prevention.
There is help. There is hope.
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