Updated: Nov 11, 2021
Suicide is a topic that is that no one likes to talk about. It is uncomfortable, it makes people nervous, & no one seems to know how to deal with it. However, we must deal with it, as it is on the rise throughout our country. Many people have lost loves ones to suicide & are grieving silently, as no one knows exactly how to deal with “that type of situation”. I know this, as I am a suicide survivor & my mission is to help others..
Recently, I posted my story regarding the loss of my brother to suicide. It was a story that I kept to myself for 11 years. Sharing his story was agonizing to me as I didn’t want my family, myself, or my brother to be judged because of the way he passed. It seemed unfair to all of us, as no one saw our family the same after he died. So I kept silent, protecting myself & my family from that emotional pain, as we had already suffered so much.
If you or a loved one dies in war, you are a hero. The honor & support you receive is undeniable. If you die in a car accident, or from cancer, the empathy & compassion you receive is overwhelming. But if you die, or your loved one dies by taking their own life, then you are judged, sometimes shunned, & you are there to pick up the pieces of your shattered life alone & silently. It shouldn’t be this way.
We all deserve to grieve our loved ones, just like everyone else does. There should be no shame in this for us.
If you haven’t read How to Overcome Questions, Guilt, & Judging When Grieving a Loss From Suicide yet, this is my story. A story about my beautiful younger brother & how our life changed so incredibly fast, literally in a blink of an eye. In this story, I share how grieving is different when dealing with suicide. It is difficult, complex, & people need to understand this.
So many people are grieving the loss of their loved ones from suicide & are doing so in silence, as their options seem limited. I want to help change that! I have recently realized that by being a “suicide survivor” I can help others with their grief because I understand what they are going through.
Unfortunately, I have lost 2 cousins & my brother to suicide, so I know how it feels on all sides of that situation.
In my early teens I had a cousin that passed from suicide. Obviously, I was young & did not know what to think. It terrified me & immediately I thought there must be something wrong within that family. How could anyone do that? This was so confusing to me, it just didn’t make any sense.
When I was 18, my cousin Mark committed suicide. This was different, as I knew him & we had spent quite a bit of time together. He seemed happy, he was in a great family setting, he was very loved by all of us. At this point my feelings toward suicide were already changing.
Then in 2006, the unthinkable happened! My perfect, all-American family was faced with the sheer fact that our beautiful son, & brother had taken his own life. All of the sudden, we were that family. That family of suicide. It was tragic, life shattering & we had no idea where this scary road of healing would take us.
We had no idea what we were in for on our journey. What we found was frightening, sad, & overwhelming. I never would have thought it would be that way, but it was.
I found that the questions that you have for your love one continually haunt you. The guilt that maybe you could have done more, consumes every ounce of your being. And the one thing that you would think would remain stable in your life doesn’t. Your friends, your community of people, the one source of support & companionship that you need in your life, seem to go missing. They may even start judging you & your family. Please note, not all do that, thank goodness, but many of them do.
This can be heartbreaking as you are already grieving the loss of your loved one.
“Suicide carries in its aftermath a level of confusion and devastation that is…beyond description.” ~Kay Jamison
Unfortunately, I was no stranger to losing family members & friends, so I knew all to well about grieving. However, what I didn’t know was how different grieving from suicide was.
Because I couldn’t figure out how to cope with this situation, I literally, bought a house that I had only seen once, that had been in foreclosure, 1000 miles away from where we were living. I packed up my 3 little boys who were 12, 9, & 4, our dog, a few items; such as clothing, blankets & few toys. I left my poor husband home to sell our house & traveled to our new, foreclosure home, pregnant with my fourth child. I was so scared, but I was more scared to stay living in my old life. So I took the challenge!
If that was not character building, I have no idea what was! We somehow forgot how horrible the house was, we had no furniture, beds, supplies, the plumbing was broken, the house was unbearable. But, however bad it was, it was still better than living my life how I was living it.
I could take my secret, safely lock it up in my heart, & start totally new. No one knew who I was or what I had been through. And that is exactly how I wanted it!
NO one should feel this way! No one should ever feel this alone!
How I want to help.
Because I know what it is like on both sides of suicide, the outside looking in to suicide & the inside looking out, I know we need to start with educating people. I want to help others to understand how the suicide survivors are affected & what they need from others in terms of support.
Here are some important tools that will help you be able to comfort & support suicide survivors:
1. Don’t be AFRAID!
I know it can be scary, especially if you have never dealt with loss before. Most times, when we are afraid of something we shy away from it or just avoid it all together. This is exactly what happens when someone has to deal with suicide & this is exactly what they don’t need to happen.
Suicide is not a disease, it is not contagious, so you can’t catch it! Your friends or loved ones are still the same people & they need you. So please do not avoid them or fear them! If you don’t know how to deal with them, start by just being there for them. No words need to be exchanged, just the feeling of love & empathy will work just fine. I promise!
2. Don’t say, “Time will heal you.”
I remember that saying the most out of everything! That saying would literally get under my skin. I heard it from everyone, even people whom have never suffered a loss.
I would hope that it was true & I would wait every single day to see if that pain had been taken away. Every day I would awake & it was still there. Some days even worse than the day before.
I believe with all of my heart, that time only teaches us how to overcome our grief, how to overcome our daily struggles, in life & bury the pain. I say this because, when that all of that gets stripped away, the grief is there just as strong as it was the day he passed.
3. Don’t compare ‘your grieving’ to ‘their grieving’.
I talked about this in my post What My Brother’s Death Taught Me About Gratitude. Please take the time to read that if you are grieving any loss…it is important!
Grieving is done internally & we all grieve differently. Please be aware of that when dealing with others. It is not fair to you or others to compare your grief. I specifically remember feeling anger towards someone talking about how they had just lost their grandfather & that they were going through the same grief that I was. I felt as though there were no comparison as their grandfather had lived a good full life, where as my brother was only starting his life at 21 yrs old.
However, I was comparing our grief. That was not right of me to do so. We all have our own grieving journey. We have to respect that about one another.
4. Don’t JUDGE!
Please if you hear nothing else that I am saying today, PLEASE remember this! Judging someone can be THE MOST damaging action that you can do to a suicide survivor! Believe me, I know.
If you have read my story, then you know already how hurtful this can be. The sad thing is that, I too, did this when I lost my first cousin to suicide I judged them because I was afraid & had no understanding on why this could happen. It is a horrible, selfish thing to do and you can’t even begin to imagine how that it makes the families feel.
You don’t need to understand why their loved one committed suicide, you just need to know that it happened. It happens to very normal, happy , loving families. You have no idea who or when it may happen to someone you love. Please take the time to get educated about this subject & have empathy for the survivors, as judging stops them from being able to grieve or heal.
Unfortunately, the suicide rate is on the rise. It is the 10th leading cause of death in the US. Over 44,000 people die each year to suicide. It was the third leading cause of death among individuals between 10 & 14, & the second leading cause of death from individuals between 15 & 34.
Suicide is something that we need to understand & help with. The only thing that we should fear is that people do not talk about it.
5. Don’t let your faith come between you & whomever is grieving.
I will not go into faith much in this post, because I believe that we all should have our own beliefs. That is what makes living in this country so amazing! However, is most definitely a spiritual conflict when dealing with suicide.
There are already so many questions like, ‘How could God let this happen? or ‘Why would they do this?’ & ‘Where do they go after they die?’
Please don’t give advice on your faith to whomever is grieving from a suicide loss. Faith is a very touchy subject when dealing with suicide as every religion has a different take on this subject.
I will never forget having a conversation with one of my friends about this subject. She expressed her concern to me that my brother would never get to heaven because he committed the worse crime that there was, he took his own life. He broke the contract between he & his creator & she wasn’t sure what would happen to his spirit.
That was a moment I will never forget, as it put me on a crusade to read everything that I could. I studied & tried to find some answers that would settle my already shattered soul. It was a long & lonely journey.
Please just be a friend, put your faith aside & do what is right for both of you. Love & support each other during this difficult time.
6. Don’t ask QUESTIONS.
I know we all want to know what happened & why? But you have to understand that this is all that the family is doing at this point, they are asking themselves questions over & over like it is on a reel.
This is what is so hard with suicide, you have so many questions & you can’t get the answers. Please just be aware of their healing & what they are going through. You will be able to talk through these questions with them when they are ready to share them with you.
“A person never truly gets ‘over’ a suicide loss.You get through it. Day by day. Sometimes it is moment by moment.”
~ Holly Kohler
So, now that we understand what not to do, how do we help comfort those who are grieving the loss from suicide?
1. Be there for them for the long haul!
Just because we may have so many questions or fear regarding this situation, doesn’t mean we should run away from your friends or loved ones! This is when we need to embrace them, learn from them, & comfort them. Just showing your support, letting them know that you are here for them no matter what they need, is so helpful!
Once the funerals are over & every goes back to their daily lives & routines, we are still here picking up the pieces of our shattered lives. And none of the pieces seem to fit together anymore! This is when you need to be there for them. This is when the real grieving & journey towards healing starts. This is so very important for everyone to understand!
2. Don’t say anything at all.
This can be so extremely awkward because know one knows what to say to someone whom has lost their loved on to suicide. This is when honesty comes into play. If you literally don’t know what to say, say, “I am so very sorry for your loss, I just don’t know what to say!”
You have to understand that nothing at that point is going to ease their pain. So you don’t have to try to do that. All you need to do is physically & emotionally be there for them. It will be a long journey of healing for them. By letting them know that you be there for them & you will protect them from others, is all they need to know. Having a safety blanket (your friendship) will help tremendously! I promise!
Suicide can be very difficult to deal with because many times it is swept under the rug. Many people just can’t ‘deal’ with it so they stop talking about it, they bury it within themselves. They lock up the topic to protect their family. This can cause so many problems within the family & friends because no one knows how to cope with the situation, leaving everyone feeling very isolated & alone.
Please be there for them with open ears as they will need to have that outlet at some point. Everyone does!
3. Be patient!
Unfortunately, I am not sure that we ever heal from a loss like this. We just go through our daily lives, learning new ways to cope & deal with our emotions. At some point, we try to make others that we love happy, because we know how much they miss how we ‘used’ to be.
It can be terrifying because you are unsure if you will ever be truly happy again. So, please be aware of this as you are longing for your loved one to return ‘back to normal’. There will be a new normal for them, but with your help they will get there. Be patient, quiet, loving, protective, & you will be the most valued friend around! I promise!
4. Don’t be angry with their loved one that committed suicide.
You can be angry, but keep it to yourself. The last thing that your friend needs is for you tell them how upset you are at them. They are angry enough already but at the same time they are feeling so guilty for being angry. The emotions are very complex & difficult to understand.
One of the reasons we are so angry is that when our loved one committed suicide, they lost a lot of love & respect that they may have had with others. This is very hard for the families to absorb, because you never want anyone to remember them in a negative way. You only want to remember the good memories, the amazing times that you shared with them.
This is important.
I hope that these were helpful tips as I know it can be an awkward subject. All in all, you just have to be able to put yourself in their shoes, do not judge at all, be there for them (even if is just being silent), be patient, loving, & protective of their feelings. Don’t let them feel so alone, suggest suicide survivor groups for them to attend, attend them with them. Just be there.
Please share our stories & this information as we need to talk about suicide & what happens to the survivors that are left behind. We cannot let them struggle & grieve alone. We need to figure out a different way to help them.
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Thank you all for taking the time to read this! I appreciate you all so much & am grateful for each & every day that I get to be part of The Giggling Life. My whole entire purpose to starting this blog was to help others to be able to overcome obstacles, especially when it come to grieving.