Losing a Loved One to Suicide
When someone dies by suicide, the lives of those who loved them are forever changed. Living through death of a loved one by suicide can be one of the most challenging things you can go through. Grief can show up in many different ways. Developing a better understanding of the grief you are going through may be helpful in navigating your way down the path to healing.
Grief is a natural way one deals with heartbreak and the loss of someone or something they love. Grief is one of the most challenging things somebody can go through and can affect their eating habits, sleeping habits, ability to think clearly, and overall health and wellbeing. Grief can look different for everybody. If you are dealing with grief, you will likely experience a wide range of difficult emotions like:
Shock: Death, especially death by suicide, can leave a person reeling from the loss. The news of the loss of your loved one may take longer than usual to sink in as your brain works to defend itself from the trauma of a loved one dying. The shock caused by your grief can leave you feeling numb, empty, hazy, or completely detached from the situation.
Denial: Finding out that you have lost a loved one to suicide can be a difficult loved one would do that. This reaction is another defense mechanism the brain has developed to protect itself from the trauma that is caused by grief. Your brain is slowing down its processing of reality to pace itself for the road ahead to healing. As your feelings of denial begin to wear off, your healing process will be able to start.
Anger: You may experience feelings of anger as your brain begins to allow itself to comprehend the painful situation at hand. You may find yourself feeling angry with the one you lost, for taking themselves away from this world; angry with life, for taking your loved one away from you; or angry with yourself, for wishing you could have done something, even if there was nothing that could have been done. Anger is a natural and healthy step in the healing process when dealing with losing a loved one to suicide. Your anger can often give you the strength needed to comprehend your grief.
Bargaining: This stage of grief is typically when your brain is searching for a way to gain control over your situation. If you are religious, you may find yourself trying to make a deal with your God, desperately trying to find a way to heal from your pain. You will likely experience thoughts of "what if..." or "I should have...". Guilt is often an emotion that accompanies this stage of grief.
Depression: Depression is often the emotion that is most commonly associated with grief. You may experience intense sadness, hopelessness, despair, numbness, or a lack of motivation in this stage. Some people dealing with extreme depression in their grief may even experience thoughts of suicide. If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide, reach out to your national suicide prevention helpline at 800-273-8255. If you are in immediate danger of suicide, call 911.
Acceptance: Often associated with being the last stage of grief, acceptance does not necessarily mean that you have completely moved on and healed. Healing from grief is not always going to be a linear progression. You may have days that look better than others. Acceptance is the point of grief where you have come to terms with what your "new" normal will look like, without your loved one, and that you have accepted that, even though you may not feel okay right now, you will eventually be okay. Once you hit this stage of grief, you may finally begin to feel like yourself again, accepting invitations to hang with friends, participating in your hobbies, and starting to live life again. It is okay to have both good and bad days, no matter what stage of healing you are in.
How Grief Is Different When You Lose a Loved One to Suicide
Grief can hit you in many different situations. Maybe you have learned that your health is declining, perhaps a cherished relationship has come to an end, or maybe you have lost a loved one to natural causes. The thing is, learning that a loved one has passed from suicide can bring on a range of thoughts and emotions that are unlike any other forms of grief.
You may experience feeling alone if the stigma surrounding the topic of mental health is prevalent in your environment. While stigmas placed around the issue of mental health are slowly but surely fading, many people still feel uncomfortable speaking about the subject. Whether established by religion, culture, or another factor, these stigmas can make it hard for you to discuss how you are feeling about this traumatic event. It is crucial to your healing process to find people you trust and feel comfortable enough to talk about your feelings with. This person can be a friend, family member, therapist, or support group.
You may feel like you are dealing with a rollercoaster of emotions surrounding the feelings associated with losing your loved one and how you lost them. The confusion about how to feel can often feel overwhelming and make your healing process feel as though it is full of obstacles and struggles.
When you lose a loved one to suicide, you may wish to find closure in learning the "why." This, however, may not always be an answer you can find. Sometimes, there are no answers to your questions. Sometimes, the answers to your questions don't fit the explanation you feel that you need.
Healthy Ways to Cope
Coping with losing someone to suicide can be difficult. Know that you will get through this and do not have to do so on your own. If you have a trusted friend or family member you can talk to, reach out to them and talk about how you are feeling and the thoughts running through your head. Seeking the advice of a therapist can also be very helpful in your healing process. A therapist can assist you in working through your emotions while teaching you healthy coping mechanisms to get through these challenging times.
Be kind to yourself and understand that it is okay to feel whatever you are feeling at this time. It takes time to heal from losing a loved one, so take as much time as you need. Allow yourself to take a break. Allow yourself to feel whatever emotions come your way. Try to live in the moment. Surround yourself with people who lift you up. While you are going through this, make sure to take care of both your mental and physical health, as they are both critical aspects of your healing.