Losing someone you love is devastating in any circumstance, but when we lose someone to suicide, there is often an added layer of complexity.
Common experiences/thoughts experienced by those bereaved by suicide:
- Shock (didn’t expect this, didn’t know the person wasn’t happy, no time to prepare for it, or if you were aware they were depressed, shocked that they are now gone)
- Denial (of their death, or the fact that they died by suicide)
- Anger (at the deceased – how could they do this to us? Or at others – how did they not see this coming and stop it?)
- Guilt/failure (should I have done something more? Did I cause this because of what I said/did/didn’t do?)
- Sadness (and tearfulness, or sometimes, an absence of any feeling)
- Embarrassment (how will I explain this to people?)
- Questions/curiosity (a burning ‘need’ to find out why and what and how, to examine in detail).
None of these reactions are wrong, they are common experiences as reported by people who are bereaved by suicide.
As with any kind of grief, there is no ‘normal’ way to mourn someone who has died by suicide. We all grieve differently, at different speeds. There is no wrong way to do it.
With such sudden deaths, we are often left with many questions, and most of those, we will not be able to get answers to. This means people are often left clueless as to what was going on for the deceased person, what they were thinking about, why they felt the need to take their lives etc. Similarly, due to their sudden nature, loved ones are often left unable to rectify wrongs or say goodbye. This can be very difficult to come to terms with.
Unfortunately, there is still a lot of stigma around suicide, and as such, those bereaved often feel they need to hide the cause of death or they feel that they can’t talk freely about what happened. Many of us have our own moral or religious viewpoints on this matter, and these may need rectifying when coming to terms with the loss.
It is important as a person bereaved by suicide (or as someone supporting this person) that you are able to freely express your emotions whether it’s love, hate, sorrow, relief, guilt or otherwise.
This means talking openly about what has happened, finding a way to make sense of it, and most of all, giving yourself time to mourn in your own way.
- Be kind to yourself – take a break, do something nice, don’t expect to go on achieving as normal.
- Talk to someone – a friend or relative. Or express your emotions in other ways e.g. writing or painting.
- Stay healthy – this means eating well, getting some exercise and enough sleep.
- Seek external or professional help if required. See your GP, speak to a psychologist, find support groups or useful websites.
- Remember; these things take time and we all grieve in our way.
Useful websites to check out:
Finding grief support in Canberra
At Strategic Psychology, our staff are trained to help you get back on track after the death of a loved one. Healing takes time, so if you need to speak to someone, please arrange for an appointment with one of our psychologists.