Surviving Life After Suicide: 10 Things to Expect
The absolute worst thing that could happen, has happened. Someone you love took their own life. Much of the time this happens without warning. They haven’t revealed anything abnormal, they haven’t given away their prize possessions. They were happy the last time you saw them, which could even be hours before their death. Truth be told, the absence of these warning signs tends to be the give away to the impending loss.
When someone reaches out for help, that is exactly what they want. Many times this will be in a non-verbal way if they are scared to share their thoughts or feelings. When someone does not reach out for help, or has a sudden change of emotion, such as very happy when they have been depressed, this can be the only give-away of what is to come. If someone has a history of mental illness or substance use, it is difficult to know when someone is in trouble. Mainly, because their life is seemingly trouble-filled on a daily basis. Then the unexpected happens, and you are left traumatized, empty, mentally and emotionally confused. There is no doubt that the people close to the suicide victim will go through the “what if’s”. Guilt may ensue. Difficulty focusing, functioning, and connecting can become a task. There is no sense in the loss of a viable life, that was loved, even if they didn’t feel it. The loved ones must now live forever with the loss and pain. Everyone goes through loss differently. Numbness will most likely be present for days, or weeks following the suicide. This is the body’s way of self-protection. There is just nothingness, but perhaps some outbreaks of extreme grief and pain. When the numbness begins to clear, it will be in stages. First in the behavioral way that life and its responsibilities must continue, so you return to work, and your daily activities. This doesn’t negate the hole you feel in your entire being. Here are some things to expect in the healing process in the coming months and years:
- In the months following the loss, expect the inability to feel much, particularly joy. This doesn’t mean it will never return. It will.
- Do not numb your pain if possible. During extreme loss, the use of tranquilizers and alcohol will be tempting to ease the distress. These can lead to prolonged grieving by not allowing your mind to heal naturally. If medication is needed, make sure that it is brief, perhaps to get through the funeral.
- Some behaviors may seem strange or morbid to others such as wearing the persons clothing, speaking out loud to them, or refusing to accept the reality. These behaviors will end within a few weeks of the death. They are normal in an effort to continue to feel the closeness in the face of sudden absence.
- Get help. Seek the support of a counselor. Even if you don’t feel it will help, or you don’t want to talk, having a person available to you to help you make sense of what you are feeling can be invaluable.
- Be patient with yourself. Healing happens in waves. Let your feelings exist as they surface. If you are angry, be angry. If you are sad, be sad. It’s ok and it is real. Be careful where you are directing these emotions. Others don’t know what to say and it is impossible to ease your grief. At the same time, improperly lashing out can create more difficulties for everyone.
- Talk with your family or the people in your home about how you will indicate that you are having a difficult time, so that they don’t take it personally. Perhaps come up with a key phrase such as “I’m having a (person’s name) day.” They will then know that you are struggling and can offer support.
- Sometimes, just sitting quietly with someone is enough.
- Over time, the pain will stretch out with some good times in between the difficult ones. This is the natural healing process. The time in between will lengthen more and more over time.
- Guilt MUST be addressed. The reality is, we do
not have the power of life and death over another. Recognize that the death was not in your control. Regardless of mental illness, if someone decided to end their own suffering, you were not part of that equation and therefore, not given the opportunity to intervene.
10.Allow yourself to live again. Your life has not completed
it’s chapters. LIVE. Don’t allow yourself to be another victim of senseless loss of life. Allow yourself to move on and maybe even appreciate life and those you love more.
When it comes to surviving life after a suicide, there is no quick fix or way to speed up the healing process. It will all be in it’s own time. Be gentle with yourself and others.