It is very important we share with you, how to support suicide loss survivors. Who is a suicide loss survivor? But first, quick share from Anita!
I used to be suicidal, VERY suicidal. One of my first write-ups on loudsilences was on ‘the day I died’. After I made the switch from depression and suicide to purposeful living, I could not help but think about how my action would have affected my loved ones.
My glimpse of the depth of pain and grief survivors of suicide loss experience words was embedded in the words and expression of my husband after I shared my struggles of depression and suicidal thoughts with him.
This was in the year 2018/19. Bouts of depression and suicidal thoughts surfaced in my life after years of semblance of bliss.
Like most depressed and suicidal persons, I kept it to myself and did my best to string along life- trying to be strong for my family.
When I eventually opened up, my husband looked at me like I was a different person. The guilt he felt for not ‘seeing right through me’, that I felt like I had to deal with my ‘issues’ alone.
To say it broke my heart to have seen him in such pain is an understatement. In that moment, I was glad I never carried through with any plans. Can you imagine the horror if I did?
What would he even tell the kids? I also had a moment where I had a vision about my daughter hating me al her life because I committed suicide.
So, as I think about what this day represents for us in the world, I thought we should share useful tips YOU can use in supporting survivors of suicide loss, should you meet them.
Should I have gone through with any of my suicidal thoughts at the time, I know I would have appreciated my family getting all the help, love and support they need to get through. But, I am glad I didn’t. Not a lot of suicidal people can say the same.
Tips for supporting survivors of suicide loss
Globally, almost 1 million people die by suicide each year.
What this means is that there’s a higher number of suicide loss survivors in the world. And many suicide loss survivors report that grieving their loved ones come with a unique set of challenges.
In addition to the feelings of sadness, loss, and grief that most bereaved people experience, many suicide loss survivors also feel anger, guilt, confusion, and shame.
Even more so, suicide loss victims are usually haunted by thoughts such as “Why did she keep her pain from me?”, “Why did he do this?” “This is my fault.”, “how did I not see through their suffering?” etc.
Furthermore, suicide loss victims face shame and stigmatization due to the nature of the death. Research shows that a high number of suicide loss survivors experience a lack of self-forgiveness.
This triggers feelings of resentment towards oneself, and that goes to worsen the sad situation.
It’s no wonder survivors of suicide loss go through a lot of emotional, social, and physiological discomfort for a long time after death. In some cases, suicide loss survivors experience trauma, depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
Suicide loss is no doubt a complex struggle for the survivor. There is also the risk of survivors becoming suicidal as well. So how can we support survivors of suicide loss?
Here are 3 ways to support survivors of suicide loss:
1. Be Sensitive To Their Needs
Any person who loses their loved one to suicide is bound to experience a negative influx of emotions. They will likely feel sad, lonely, broken, or even suicidal.
Try to be there for them in grieving moments, and offer emotional and moral support in the best way you can.
Help them understand that healing doesn’t happen in a straight line, and get them to prepare their minds for painful reminders and setbacks.
2. Encourage Them To Grieve In Their Own Way
Suicide loss survivors are vulnerable in their pain and tend to experience a form of complicated grief due to feelings of shame, which can lead to withdrawal.
Grieving on their own is risky, especially if they’re having suicidal thoughts themselves. Encourage them to grieve in the way they think best, as long as they are not endangered.
3. Stay In Touch With Them
Reach out to them from time to time, and ask how they are faring. Suicide loss survivors and bereaved people, in general, may occasionally find themselves feeling lonely and depressed. Even months after they seem to have stopped grieving.
If you’re close to the survivor, you may offer a shoulder for them to cry on or make yourself available when they need someone to talk to.
Also, encourage them to reach out to and stay in contact with loved ones, friends, and spiritual leaders who can offer them comfort and understanding.
4. Remind Them It Is Not Their Fault
One of the biggest guilt trip for survivors of suicide loss is that ‘they did not see the suffering’. This makes them feel personally responsible.
Truth is that their loved ones likely did a good job of masking their pain. They (the deceased) also likely masked as a way to protect their loved ones. They just did not think it through on the after effect of their actions. Survivors need to remember that!
People commit suicide for different reasons. Whatever the reason, the effect often remain the same for those they leave behind. Confusion, fear, anger, guilt and shame.
While we may not have seen through the pain of the person already gone, but when we understand the pain of the person they left behind, we have no excuse not to protect them from repeating the same act.
A suicide loss survivor is one who lost a dear one to suicide. They need support, can they count on you?
DeLeo D., Bertolote J., Lester D. Self-directed violence. In: Krug EG, Dahlberg LL, Mercy J A, Zwi AB, Lozano R, eds. World Report on Violence and Health Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization. 2002:185–212. [Google Scholar]
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