Suicide can result in shock and disbelief. Those of us who have lost a loved one or important person in our lives to suicide—referred to as “survivors of suicide”—suffer. We must get through the suicide before we can get through the loss. It is common for us to experience any of the following:
Experiences of survivors.
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- Guilt. We might ask ourselves questions like “What if…?” or say things like “If only…”
- Anger. It’s also common for us to be angry with the person who died as well as ourselves.
- Blame. We sometimes place blame on ourselves, but blame is judgmental and accusatory. Responsibility, on the other hand, is a statement of fact. The only person who is responsible for a suicide is the person who died. We need not feel guilty.
- Relief. In some cases we might feel relief that the person’s psychological pain is over. This is common and normal.
- Ups and downs. We may backslide from time-to-time.
- We may encounter painful reminders in the form of photos, songs, or the scent of food, for example.
- We might “Feel bad about feeling good” (Jackson, 2003, p. 3). Feeling good may make us feel as though we’re trivializing the loss.
- Painful life events and milestones. Anniversaries, birthdays, and holidays can be difficult. Often the anticipation of these days is worse than the days themselves. As people develop new milestones in their lives, an indication that they are moving forward without their loved ones, they may feel guilty.
- Thoughts of suicide. The suicide can make the idea of suicide for us far more real.
- Obsessions with suicide. Sometimes people become obsessed with the phenomenon of suicide instead of developing a healthy activism. They become completely defined by their roles as survivors.
- A need to understand suicide. Sometimes we have a desire to understand why the suicide happened or to seek explanations. We may search for advice and hard facts.
- Barriers to help. These barriers may include the following:
- Not knowing who or what could help
- Lack of offers to help when we’re ready for help
- Disappointing initial encounters with providers
- Lack of motivation & support
- Family turmoil.
- Loss of support. We might find that people who were supportive no longer offer their support. Some people may even make insensitive comments—people can be inept at offering comfort. The end result may be isolation.
- Fear of people’s judgments. We may be haunted by this fear. In the end, suicide is often defined by silence—survivors deny it, hide it, and are ashamed to discuss it.
- Shock erodes our natural resistance to disease, and we may not get adequate nutrition & enough sleep. Some of this is normal, but if it persists, we may need medical care.