I have learned a great deal about cognitive therapy techniques as a way to make changes in my own life.
One of the most painful ways to be left behind by a loved one is through suicide. This loss leaves loved ones feeling numb and confused, as well as having feelings of disorientation, guilt, shame, anger, intense sadness, rejection, and anxiety as a result of the trauma from their loss. These are very normal reactions to an abnormal event.
When I lost a loved one through suicide, there wasn’t much support or information available on how to deal with it, and the topic was primarily viewed with horrible stigmas. Therefore, talking about it with others often left them feeling uncomfortable and unable to help me.
I felt abandoned, deeply hurt, lost in a fog and all alone to endure the pain of my tragic and confusing loss. Many years later, I heard terms like "suicide survivors" and "survivors of suicide." This was the beginning of finding information out there to help those left behind to grieve this kind of loss.
I have chosen to write this article in the hope to help others who may have also sadly experienced the loss of someone they love through suicide.
When news of a suicidal death is first received, there tends to be a great deal of disbelief and denial.
Even though I was the one to find my loved one's body, I still wanted to believe that it wasn't true and expected it to be some cruel practical joke intended to teach me a harsh lesson. Though that in itself seems cruel, at that time, it seemed like a good exchange for the reality of the situation, which took some time and much verification to sink in.
ACCEPTING THE NEWS
Once the reality of the suicide sinks in, the minds of those dealing with the loss are constantly in a fog as they try to grapple with the situation; the feelings of loss can be very intense, which can be a very scary feeling in itself. Seeking professional grief counseling, or a support group can be very beneficial in finding ways to share your loss and feelings. This will serve to help you become a little more grounded and present. It is important that you still take care of yourself through this process.
Undoubtedly, the pain will be around for a long time but you can go on. That may mean taking it one day at a time, or even hours or minutes at a time. In the beginning, some days will seem non-existent and you’ll tend to forget events that happened throughout your day. I recall wondering if I actually stopped at red lights coming and going to work because my mind and emotions were not on the present; I was in a constant fog and my memory was hazy. But as time passes… much time, the pain slowly becomes less of a dominant factor in your days. Be patient with yourself and don’t allow anyone to convince you when you should be done grieving or how you should be grieving. The process tends to take its own natural course in different ways with each person. This is why proper support is so beneficial during this time.
Once I processed the loss, I began to ask why. Even though I had no idea why this decision was made, it seems like such an extreme solution to issues that might be solved in other ways. I kept wondering what I missed, or why he didn't share his troubles to get help. It is normal to keep asking questions and seek out answers, or to stumble with the lack of answers.
After my loss, I tore apart the house, looking in every spot seeking answers; hoping that he left anything that would help me to understand why. The thing about suicide is that even if we have answers, this is never an easy thing to understand.
The endless strings of “If only I had done this or hadn’t done that, maybe this wouldn't have happened” haunted me for a very long time. To this day, I still have a tendency to wonder “what if....”
It is quite a common occurrence during the grieving process to place blame on ourselves, or even on others for the suicide. While it is normal to want to find someone to blame, and though the situation is difficult to understand, it is important to recognize that the blame only creates greater hurts.
Some people expressed that I should have felt more anger over my loss than I did. I was never angry with him. Instead, I felt very sad for the pain he must have been feeling in order to make such an extreme decision. I was also sad that I was that I wasn't able to, or didn't know how to help him with that pain. Having these feelings would often lead me back to the feelings of guilt.
Cycling through different emotions is very normal during the grieving process. Anger is also a very normal part of the grieving process, and it may become directed from one person to another. But, the lesson here is, that no one has the right to tell you how you should or should not be feeling. These are your feelings and this is your process.
Seek support from a grief counselor, support groups, books, your faith leader, friends or family who fully understand your grief. It is important to be with those who exhibit compassion, patience, and support while allowing you to talk through your thoughts and feelings. Those who do not provide the support you need, or who exhibit judgments, may only serve to hold you back from your grieving and healing process.
On the other hand, remember that other friend and family survivors will be experiencing their own pain. So, it is equally important to be patient with them as well. Fortunately, there are many more resources available today to help with this difficult time. Please reach out and seek out resources that serve to help you.
BE PATIENT WITH YOURSELF
Take the grief-work process slowly. Don't force the emotions, pains, and memories aside before you're ready to do so. Don’t be afraid to cry; tears are a natural way to grieve and to heal. But on the other hand, don’t feel bad for smiling and laughing. It's especially good to remember the happy times you shared with the one you lost. Remember, love, respect, and share the person they were and the time you had with them. You are still alive, so it is good to enjoy such pleasantries, which is also healing.
Know that your emotions will come in and out of different phases as different memories and emotions come and go. So what you feel one minute may be quite different the next. These shifts in emotions may also tend to bring on headaches, loss of appetite, sleep disturbances and periods of "unreality." These are quite common to experience and does not mean that there is something wrong with you. It is yet another normal part of the impact of grieving.
If possible, refrain from making major decisions in your life shortly after the death. Your grief may distort your ability to make sound choices.
Your life is forever changed, but despite your grief, it will be important for you to take as good of care of yourself as you can and live a good life that you feel your loved one would have wanted for you.
Again, seeking professional guidance to help you with your grief work can be very beneficial.
- Resources for Loss Survivors
- Loss Survivors : Lifeline
If you have lost a loved one to suicide, you are not alone. There are resources available to help survivors of suicide loss cope.
- Suicide grief: Healing after a loved one's suicide - Mayo Clinic
Suicide — Coping with pain and grief after a loved one's suicide.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2010 Mary Roark
Mona Sabalones Gonzalez from Philippines on July 19, 2016:
I'm very sorry for your grief, and admire you very much for using your sadness to bring understanding and clarity to others with the same experience. This is a beautiful article.
Chioms on October 06, 2014:
I lost my son to suicide almost 10 years ago. The feelings you talk about are exactly the way I feel. I thank you for putting my thoughts into words. My husband, daughter and I will never be the same, nor would we want to be, but we are surviving.
Mary Roark (author) from Boise area, Idaho on July 14, 2013:
Thank you so very much for your positive input and your support gsidley. It is very much appreciated.
Dr. Gary L. Sidley from Lancashire, England on July 10, 2013:
What a powerful and moving account of a terrible loss.
I've been fortunate enough not to have lost a close friend or family member to suicide, but I have worked with many survivors and have worked with patients with mental health problems who have later committed suicide. It is undoubtedly the most difficult bereavement to cope with and I believe your article has made a positive contribution to supporting those who have experienced it - indeed, the comments you have received are testimony to the helpfulness of your words.
angie on May 27, 2013:
Its been 4 months now since i lost my boyfriend the love of my life to suicide.He was the best and he had had thoughts of suicide before i came along and never mentioned it afterward. We had our problems like all couples and i miss him.But we were soulmates and I feel he's finally at peace and though I may suffer,He's with his grandma,his dad he loved and left him a 11.I just know he's at peace. I will never forget him and thanks for your article because I've been shutting grieve out but now realize I have to deal with this like it or not.Love you,Gary Elliott
Mary Roark (author) from Boise area, Idaho on October 21, 2012:
jpesch1, I think dealing with a loss through suicide takes a toll on many. The closer one may have been to that person, the harder the toll. Even though you were divorced, you did share a relationship and a life together. The bad thing about suicide, is that most people seek someone to blame and often, many place part of that blame on themselves. It is a tough experience to go through. When I wrote this article, I said I had not experienced anger towards my loved one. Well, over the past year, I finally did... 20 years later. The trauma of this kind of loss can have a tendency to linger long & harshly upon those left to deal with it.
Jane Peschel from Currently living in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin on October 19, 2012:
Interesting how I happen upon this hub after it has been here for 2 years. I started writing in Hubpages just this year and one of my hubs deals with the loss of my first husband to suicide. I, however, had divorced him and carried the guilt of that for years. This year, 18 years later, I am finding my way to a different place, a place of acceptance and more than that, a place of appreciation for his contribution to my life. It took me 18 years!
Mary Roark (author) from Boise area, Idaho on June 01, 2011:
Thanks for your shares. It is so nice to hear how others manage through such a very difficult time.
karen wat on May 31, 2011:
There is no easy way out of survivor's guilt - I lost my boyfriend to suicide and had NO IDEA! Was told repeatedly I should've known, seen the signs, etc. yet no one else saw any signs of trouble either. What I have learned is that ultimately the decision to commit suicide is at the hand of the individual and I work every day at moving forward and forgiving Jon and forgiving myself for not being able to help. I actually put some of his ashes inside a small keychain and had his picture laser engraved on the surface and that has given me more comfort than I had anticipated. My heart goes out to all of you - it's so much harder than what people realize.
Sarah on July 24, 2010:
I lost my husband 4 months ago to suicide. Yesterday was the 4 month anniversary and I just miss him so much. We have a now 11 month old little boy. He is what is keeping me going right now. Thank you for writing this article. It is helpful to read of others journeys in dealing with a loved ones suicide. I find it hard to find good information or support. I have so much guilt right now. My husband's family is blaming me and wont even talk to me now. That adds tremendously to my grieving. Everyone keeps saying it will gets easier, but it just seems to get harder. What hurts the most is that our son will never have a dad or even have a memory of him. I hope that one day I can get to "beyond just surviving"
Jen's Solitude from Delaware on June 11, 2010:
Mary Merriment, thank you so much for this well written and extremely helpful expression of what it feels like to be one of the survivors of a loved ones suicide. It hasn't quite been a month yet since my friend took her life and I am so glad you identified one of the emotions I have been having the most trouble with - REJECTION. As soon as I read this, I realized it is one of my main emotions right now. One that I need to really think about and come to terms with. I appreciate so much that you could identify and share the process with all of us who read this. Thanks for your help, it means a lot right now!
Jeannie on May 09, 2010:
Mary, thank you for writing this article. The one I used to love dearly took his own life recently and I am dealing most of the emotions you have written about, like you, I do not have anger but the pity of the pain he must have went through...that have saddened me the most and of course many "what ifs" right now.
Thank you again, please take care.
Jane Galbraith on May 08, 2010:
Good for you for writing this!!! You are saying what needs to be expressed. I have written a book on grief called Baby Boomers Face Grief and there is a lot in it about the way our society does NOT do grief well. We don't allow people to talk about their feelings and therefore make the process of healing more difficult.
Surviving a suicide has it's own unique issues but there are some common ones that are with any grief experience. I could go on and on - I do presentations to workplaces to educate both staff and management and hopefully inspire them to change their corporate culture about grief. I also speak to community groups trying to get a message out about changing how we deal with grief in our culture.
Good for you to write about this - the more we talk about this subject the faster our reactions will be to change.
stephaniep on May 04, 2010:
Mary, you beat me to it. I was going to write a Hub on being a suicide survivor but after having read yours, I decided you did a great job. The information you provide is very helpful.
In just a few weeks, it will be 12 years since my brother took his own life and not a day passes that I don't think of him. At the time, I didn't do anything about it but just mourned and then came the guilt. People in my family hardly ever talk about him like he never even existed.
I do still mourn but I've accepted it now not as a personal assault on me and my family. After having done therapy and reading books on surviving suicide I can honestly say that the passing of time and understanding my feelings has helped.
Alas, pain is still there, a faint dull ache that I try not to think about.
Best to you in recovery,
Loli Patterson on April 29, 2010:
i enjoyed reading your article, my dad committed suicide 5months ago and I have been feeling very alone, to read someone elses experience is in a way comforting, thankyou
Steven on April 24, 2010:
Good luck with yourself. I will be praying for you!
BeBrown on April 23, 2010:
Although I cannot begin to understand how somebody in this situation would be going through, losing a loved one can be trying under normal circumstance. It takes a lot of courage to write about this subject. Thank you for doing so.