Coming to terms with the death of a loved one is hard for anyone. This is especially true when the cause of death was suicide which raises painful questions, doubts and fears. While coping with the pain of an unexpected loss; families and friends of the deceased are often overwhelmed by feelings of blame, anger, abandonment, and guilt. It is common for surviving family members to feel judged, or perceive a stigma associated with suicide. Family members often fear any difficult questions from friends and family and withdraw to protect themselves.
Rather than being concerned about the perceived stigma of suicide, concentrate on your own healing and survival. Confront the word suicide, and talk openly with your trusted friends and family so that you can begin the pathway to recovery. Surviving family should know that you are not alone - it is estimated that 1 out of 4 people know someone who has died from suicide. Find support groups where you can share your stories, memories and methods of coping.
Below are common feelings experienced by survivors of suicide. If you experience these feelings for intense long periods of time, you should consult with a mental health provider or counselor.
Grief – Sadness and pain run deep as you mourn the loss of a loved one's life, and mourn for your loss as well.
Shock – Survivors often feel numb, denial, and disbelief and cannot accept the sudden and traumatic death. It is hard to believe - “is really happening” or “it’s not real."
Anger – It is common to take the anger you feel over the suicide out on your friends, family, co-workers, and therapists. It is also common for people to direct anger towards themselves, thinking they could have done something.
Confusion – It is also hard to understand why this happened. Survivors often ask “Why did this happen?"
Guilt - Survivors often think they could have done something to prevent the suicide. They think “what if I had spent more time with them” or “if only I had been with them that night." (from: Elegant Memorials.com)
(A family perspective)
It has been hard answering the questions, especially when you don't know the "why" yourself. We have somehow managed to live without Getzia, forever feeling the emptiness her absence has left in our lives. We have found comfort in each other as a family, and with close friends who have been there for us. It has been a blessing to have her baby Jayleanna around us, and we also welcomed Arianna, my son's daughter into the world over a year ago. It has greatly helped us to continue on our healing journey-- to watch the children grow in the midst of our collective grieving has given us hope. Our lives have been forever changed by our loss, but Life does go on: with every new day, it does.
(A mother's perspective)
"Children should bury their parents, not the other way around..." I have heard these words often said to me over the years. But it is now over five years since my daughter's passing, and I am still here. And she's gone. Her suffering ended, she now rests. She's at peace, finally. For what seems like an eternity, I have gone through the grieving process with all those questions in my head and this incredible pain in my heart: a pain that cannot be explained in human words. I have wondered how could I find the strength to go on, but somehow I did. Little by little, I have made it, with faith and prayer being my constant companions. It's still hard at times to talk about it without crying, but I have given myself permission to do so. I have had to dry my tears many times in order to go on. Either the pain subsides, or you learn to live with it, but it becomes a little easier to breathe. I have learned that I am stronger than I thought I was.
I have been through the fire, but thank you Creator, I was never alone.