If you are reading this, it is probable that someone very important to you, died by suicide. First and foremost, I want to extend my heartfelt condolences on your loss. I hope the information on our website will be of help. There are also many people in our community forum, who have lost loved ones who died by suicide and who will understand what you are going through.
If you were very close to the person who died, and your grief is new, you may be struggling to get through each hour and each day. With the death of your loved one, you may feel thrust onto a surreal journey, not of your own choosing. It is important to know that healing does occur. People endure, and survive and even eventually go beyond just surviving to experience happy and meaningful lives.
Someone once said that after losing a loved one to suicide, "everything helped a little, but nothing helped a lot." This may be true. We do know however, from research as well as subjective survivor reports, that some things seem to help a little more than others.
Information helps. Following suicide, people respond in many different ways. There is no one "right or normal" way to respond, although there are many commonalities in the reactions of survivors. Survivor responses are influenced by their relationship to the deceased, the circumstances surrounding the death, their own genetic predispositions and life experiences, as well as other current stresses in their lives. While some people are not profoundly affected, others may experience traumatic, debilitating and complicated grief. You can read more about common grief reactions in the "Survivor Reactions" on this website. You can also read some books from our bookstore or the library which have been written by survivors.
Communicating Helps. Talk and write about your feelings. You might begin a journal now or use an online forum to post your thoughts and emotions. Later you will look back and see how far you have come.
Community Helps. Find people with whom you can share your feelings. you might try an "in-person support group" in a location near you. You can also conveniently post your feelings on our forum. Our forum is an on-line support group which you can access 24/7. (It cannot provide crisis intervention.)
Individual Counseling Can Help. Survivors may experience a simple sense of loss or they may experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress, conflicted feelings about the death, guilt, blame, social stigma, financial issues, and other unexpected challenges in relationships. Having someone to talk with who understands the nature of traumatic loss can be very helpful. Look for a trauma counselor who has experience with survivors (grievers) of suicide.
Medications, Herbs, Exercise, Breathing, Good Food & Sleep Help. Take care of your body as much as possible. Loss by suicide, particularly if one witnesses the death or finds the body, is a traumatic shock. Physiologically, many survivors enter a state of hyper-alert. In the beginning, sleeping difficulties, flashbacks, anxiety, and disorientation are all common. Some survivors find antidepressants and sleeping meds help. It never hurts to talk to a psychiatrist.
Responding to how others are feeling helps. As strange as it sounds, reaching out to help someone else who is also in pain often helps one’s own healing.
Again, I welcome you to this board and extend my condolences and my hopes that you will soon find moments of peace.
Ronnie Walker MS, LCPC
Founder and Executive Director
Alliance of Hope for Suicide Survivors