It is nearly 5 years since our son Adam took his life. I hope you never experience the tragic loss of someone you love to suicide. But, there may be an occasion to support someone who has. Whatever your situation there are ten things you really should know about suicide grief.
(1) It is Unexpected
Suicides are almost always unpredicted and sudden. There are no billboard signs or flags waving. It is the knock on the door and the shattering news your loved one is gone that leaves you numb, broken and desolate.
(2) It is Traumatic
Trauma is the response to any event that shatters your world. In the case of suicidal death, emotions are intensified and aggravated, sometimes to unbearable proportions. The trauma of suicide is so devastating it has the potential to shut down normal coping mechanisms.
(3) It is Insistent
There is an Old Turkish Proverb “He who conceals his grief finds no remedy for it.” Avoiding grief robs us of life. Unexpressed grief becomes toxic and may lead to a breakdown in our health.
Ann Lamott says, “Only grieving can heal grief; the passage of time will lessen the intensity, but time alone, without the direct experience of grief, will not heal it.”
(4) It is Personal
No two people grieve in quite the same way. Some people are open and expressive with their grief, crying, and wanting to talk, whilst others are more private and may be reluctant to share their feelings preferring to keep busy. There is no map or timetable for grief. What grief looks like and how long it lasts is an individual journey.
(5) It is Inequitable
The grief journey is a different process for each individual and the intensity of the experience can vary. It can seem like a roller-coaster ride, with ups and downs, or it may feel like being battered about like a little boat in a storm. Grieving will likely be influenced by factors such as the quality of the relationship with the deceased, the attitude of the bereaved toward the loss and the intensity of the reaction to the loss.
(6) It is Isolating
Individuals who have lost someone they love to suicide feel greater isolation and stigmatisation than other mourners. They dread the possibility of negative reactions. They fear that people will feel uncomfortable with the fact of suicide and avoid them or refrain from talking about the deceased.
Ruth Wajnrib says, “Silence keeps us separate, enclosed behind our own barriers, wondering at our own reality. Where does grief untold go?”
(7) It is Unpredictable
Grief is by nature unpredictable and may resurface at any stage. You cannot always tell when something will trigger intense emotions. It is common to feel puzzled and surprised by the experience of grief.There is no need to ever apologise to anyone for your grief feelings and expressions, whether predictable or not.
(8) It is Transforming
The suicide of someone you love is a defining moment. It changes your life forever. You are a different person. All realms of life are affected. When people grieve they are coming to terms with what has changed in their lives. The grieving person has to relearn the world and themselves because everything has changed.
Jack Jordan says, “Suicide can shatter the things you take for granted about yourself, your relationships, and your world.”
(9) It is Questioning
People affected by suicide are plagued by the need to make sense of the death and to understand why their friend or family member would want to end their life. There are many critical and fundamental questions deserving of our attention. Asking them honestly and courageously gives us the best chance of coping with the grief that follows a suicide.
(10) It is Remembering
Making meaning of loss is a major challenge but in doing so we often discover important ways to honour our loved one. We have a duty to remember and to celebrate their life. It can be difficult to remember the good times because the death eclipses the life.
As Albert Hsu says, “At first these reminders can be painful, triggering deep grief all over again. But eventually, they are transformed from reminders of a loved one’s death to remembrances of his or her life.”
Check out the PowerPoint presentation below: