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Grief After Suicide: How to Make Sense of the Process

When someone you love commits suicide, the most difficult thing to wrap your mind around is often making sense of the whole process.

Survivors of suicide often have a difficult time dealing with the fact that their loved one is gone. Moreover, grief after suicide can be overwhelming. It can cause intense feelings of guilt, confusion, pain, and so much more.

Unsurprisingly, grief after suicide is often more difficult than when someone passes away naturally. Mostly, because it often comes with so many unanswered questions as well as an unexpected death.

So, how can you deal with grief after a suicide, and start to make sense of the process?

Understand the Stages of a Survivor

Suicide is traumatic for everyone involved. If someone close to you has decided to end their life, it will usually come as a shock. It’s important that you learn how to deal with the process, so you can eventually find peace and healing.

Many suicide survivors can fall into depression—usually stemming from self-driven feelings of guilt. You may start to think you could have done something differently to help your loved one.

Some survivors of suicide even begin to feel responsible for the untimely death of their loved one. As imagined, this type of processing can be dangerous, leading you to think suicidal thoughts as well.

It’s not uncommon for people to start feeling an extreme anger bubble up. They might be angry at the person who committed suicide. Or, they might direct that anger toward other people (or themselves).

Nevertheless, this is another frequent part of the process of healing. Because of the overwhelming force of these emotions, it’s helpful to know what to expect in grief.

Things like denial, shock, a loss of faith, and extreme grief are all often part of the process when someone commits suicide. This process might look different for everyone. Yet, it’s important to know how to get through it.

How to Deal With Grief After Suicide

When you’re trying to make sense of suicide, the most important thing to remember is that you don’t have to go through it alone.

There are many helpful options available. Depression counseling can be very helpful for someone dealing with grief after suicide, for example.

With counseling, you can work through the various stages of grief— from denial to acceptance, and everything in between. A counseling can help you navigate those complicated emotions.

As mentioned before, you may begin to notice symptoms of depression. Affecting your emotional, physical, or mental health, depression counseling can also help you to manage those symptoms.

Lean on Others for Support

Sadly, a suicide happens about every 40 seconds. For this reason, there are many support groups to help loved ones manage the traumatic experience.

Participating in one of these support groups can make a big difference. It’s important to connect with people who have similar, shared experiences.

Also, groups such as these make it easier to open up about your struggles and the kind of grief you’re dealing with. And the support and participation don’t end simply when you “feel okay” again.

People who have been through the process of suicide are often the most helpful to others who are struggling. You can “pay it forward” to others by sharing your story and giving helpful advice on how to move forward.

Perhaps you’re dealing with anger, shame, denial, or depression after your loved one took their life. Please, know that you don’t have to go through this alone. Support is here.

With professional help, you can move forward with your life.

If you have lost a loved one to suicide, please contact me today for support. Or, visit here to learn more about how I can help you.

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Survivors of Suicide

Survivors of Suicide

Survivors of Suicide – SOS

Losing a loved one to suicide is very painful and leaves lasting consequences for the people who are left behind; the survivors of suicide. Suicide is a highly traumatic event and there are many consequences and effects that the survivors of suicide might experience.

Depression

Depression, sadness and grief are reactions that might occur after any loss, however, they might be felt more strongly after a loss by suicide. The person might feel crushed by feelings of guilt, shame and worthlessness, as they might feel a degree of responsibility for the suicide.
Depression and grief can be felt very strongly. A person might develop suicidal ideas and ideas that they might rejoin their loved ones by committing suicide. The pain is very strong, so it could be a good idea to reach out to mental health professionals and work with the grief in a more secure setting. Professional help might be especially needed if there are suicidal ideas.

Anger

Anger is another emotion that appears after a loss, but might be felt more strongly in a loss by suicide. The suicide survivor might feel anger at the person who committed suicide, but also at themselves, at other people (parents, friends, mental health professional, school authorities, etc.) who did not prevent the suicide. This is an emotion that is related to the grieving process.

Trauma and shock

The person may experience the after-effects of shock and trauma. It’s even possible to develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, for which counseling and therapy might be needed. The effects might be linked to flashbacks, nightmares, excessive adherence or obsession with anything related to the person who committed suicide or related to suicide and that pose severe limitations of the person’s life, hope for the future and relationships.

Denial

A possible first reaction to the situation is denial. The person might seemingly have a very subdued emotional reaction, not recognize what has happened or refuse to accept that it was a suicide. This reaction is usually a defense mechanism to protect a person’s mind from the shock and trauma, however, if the denial lasts for a long time, it can prevent the grieving process and lead to serious consequences. Denial might be expressed in different ways, for example, not crying or not getting angry, not touching the things or the room of the person who committed suicide, not visiting the grave, refusing help and refusing to talk about the situation for a long time. Denial might be a part of the grieving process, however, if denial does not give way to other reactions, it might seriously affect the person.

Guilt (the G word)

Guilt is commonly misidentified as a reaction among suicide survivors. Individuals might feel that they could have done more to prevent the suicide or that it was their fault that the person made that choice. But in truth, looking to ourselves for fault is an attempt to make sense or find a cause for the the senseless. Often times, the reason(s) is never fully revealed to anyone left behind. It is important to work with this emotion, because it can lead the person to act in self-destructive ways or to develop a strong depression.

Crisis of faith

This is a reaction that religious suicide survivors might experience. They might have a strong crisis and seek answers about why did someone close to them committed suicide or why their faith did not prevent what happened. The person might also feel anxious and worried about ideas related to suicide and hell or punishment. Some individuals might feel more drawn to religion for support in their grief, however, religious practices often do not substitute grief counseling.

Stigmatization by the community and blaming others

The aftermath of a suicide can be a difficult time, however, it can be made worse by the reactions other people have. Others might blame the person for allowing the suicide to happen or dismiss the reactions the person have. They might also discuss sensitive topics in an insensitive manner, for instance, saying that the person who committed suicide is surely in hell or that they were weak, in more extreme cases. Others might blame the family and friends and consider them to be dysfunctional or mentally ill as well. These reactions can worsen the state of the suicide survivor, especially if the person already feels guilty or responsible for what happened. In the aftermath of a suicide, some people might engage in finding someone or something to blame so as not to feel guilty, for example, family members might blame the friends or visa versa. This is usually not a constructive approach, as it often has to do with denial and with ignoring the pain different people are feeling at this time.

Seeking support and offering support

Individuals who are reeling from the loss of a loved one by suicide might look for support groups and communities where they can share their story with others who have had similar experiences. It’s a healthy way of coping with the situation, to be supported by others who can be truly empathetic, and to learn ways to move through the grief. Other individuals might choose to continue to participate in these groups to help others with their grieving process and make new support networks. Working a seasoned grief counselor who specializes in working with survivors of suicide can also be extremely helpful.

One last thought

There are many difficult stages to the grieving process after the loss of a loved one and many different ways to grieve. A suicide can be shocking, unexpected and more difficult to deal with than other types of losses. The person might feel guilty, angry and sad, experiencing many negative emotions and living through very difficult times. However, it’s possible to have a grieving process that will allow the person to move forward with their life, especially if the process is done with professional help and support.

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Ben Carrettin is a nationally board certified and licensed professional counselor who specializes in traumatic loss; including working with the loved ones of someone who has commit suicide. He is a lay chaplain with advanced training in pastoral care as well as in many therapeutic processes that help to guide you through your own unique and personal, grief journey.

If you or someone you know has lost a loved one and is hurting right now. Please know, support is here.

Call Now (346)-493-6181