Suicide Grief Just Hits Different
*Trigger Warning: Suicide loss. If you are currently struggling with suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Grief by nature, is a tricky beast. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance are what we call the typical stages of grief in psychology. However, suicide grief, is a form of grief that is completely atypical and often confusing and conflicting. Suicide grief is accompanied by shame, guilt, anger, frustration, and thoughts of asking yourself unfairly “What could I have done to have prevented this?” Death is always shocking, even when one’s passing is expected, but losing someone to suicide is a feeling no one is ever prepared for. Additionally, the intensity of one’s grief after losing someone in their life to suicide may be ramped up more if you were estranged from your loved one at the time of their death.
Our culture has managed suicide in a silenced light for so long that talking in the open about the suicides of loved ones feels emotionally excruciating for many. With suicide now being a leading cause of death in the United States, it’s time for suicide loss survivors to be provided space in the public to share their stories. By providing suicide loss survivors a place out of the shadows, we are also aiding in potentially preventing suicide in survivors as well. Research shows that the friends and family of someone who have been lost to suicide are at a higher risk of suicide attempts themselves. This phenomenon is referred to as the contagion of suicide. Contagion of suicide exists in large part due to the hush-hush nature of how suicide loss survivors are told by society to keep their pain close to the vest.
If you are reeling in the grief of suicide loss, please, consider the following:
-Do not isolate. Connect, be seen, and talk to people who will validate your pain.
-Find a therapist who is well versed in suicide loss and the complexities of trauma to help you process your grief.
-Find healing in your grief by getting involved and meeting other suicide survivors. Organizations such as the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Trevor Project, Give an Hour, and NAMI host events around the country to support those struggling with the complicated grief of suicide loss. Fundraising and being a leader for change will give you a goal and purpose to channel your grief towards.
Please know that you are not alone. No matter how different and alone being a suicide loss survivor may lead to you feeling, there are so many people in different stages of this already complicated suicide related grief that want to connect to you. If no one has ever said this to you, allow me to be the first person to extend my truest understanding of your loss.
By Ashley Hutchinson, LCSW