Surviving a Loss

Losing someone to suicide can be the worst thing to happen to you in your lifetime.  Suicide is a unique death.  It leaves love ones with tremendous pain, sadness, helplessness, and even anguish.  

Each year over 30,000 people in the United States die by suicide.  Research shows that during the course of our lifetime 85% of us will lose someone we care about to suicide. That means that there are millions of survivors who, like you, are trying to cope with this heartbreaking loss.

Friends and family members left behind are known as ‘survivors.’  Many survivors struggle to understand the reasons for the suicide, asking themselves over and over, “Why?” Many replay their loved ones’ last days, over and over, searching for clues, particularly if they did not see any signs that suicide was coming.  They check with friends.  They comb through belongings.  They search endlessly to find whatever they can that might shed some light on the question, “why?”  Because suicide is often poorly understood, some survivors feel unfairly victimized by stigma. They know that suicide is often hush-hush and is not talked about.  Questions linger about whether the person went to heaven.  They also may feel that suicide is shameful, or that they or their family is somehow to blame for the tragedy.  Suicide can bring people together, but it can also tear people apart.

Getting Through the Healing Process

There are a number of things a survivor can do to help get through the healing process.  He should not hesitate to seek professional help if he feels he needs help.  Sometimes the burden of losing someone to suicide can cause the survivor, himself, to consider suicide.  You may also experience anxiety, a loss of appetite, insomnia, anxiety, crying spells, loss of memory or nightmares.  This can go on for weeks, months, and even years, depending on the individual.  Sometimes you may need to seek out professional counseling to help you get through these problems.  

Friends are very important in the recovery process.  But, friends should be willing to listen and be slow to judge.  They should be understanding and allow the survivor to talk. Because of the stigma surrounding suicide, survivors are often hesitant to openly share their story and express their feelings.  Friends should understand that opening up to them might have required a large amount of trust.

Faith is very important in the healing process.  Many people attest that it was only by God’s grace that they were able to recover from a loved one’s suicide.  Surrounding yourself with people of similar beliefs who are willing to pray and offer support can be very helpful in the healing process.
Many survivors also turn to suicide support groups.  These groups are a good resource for the healing process and many survivors find them helpful.  Survivors of suicide support groups are helpful to survivors to express their feelings, tell their story, and share with others who have experienced a similar event.

For help to occur, you must overcome any preconceptions you have about suicide and the suicide victim. This is best accomplished by educating yourself about suicide. While you may feel uncomfortable discussing suicide and its aftermath, survivors of loved ones lost to suicide are in great pain and in need of your compassion.  

An abundance of resource information is available to survivors about suicide.  At this website, you will find a great deal of information about research and statistics, and how to make referrals, recognize signs, help others, and help yourself.  

William and Naomi Powell from Circle of Love Support Group