Coping With the Loss of a Loved One

Every year, more than 42,000 people in the United States die by suicide. It is this country's 10th leading cause of death overall and the 2nd leading cause of death in the 15 to 24 year-old group. With an average of 121 suicides per day, there are more suicides annually in the U.S. than homicides. It is estimated that for every suicide, there are at least 8-10 people whose lives are traumatically impacted and forever changed.

The sudden and unexpected nature of the death leaves survivors stunned and troubled by the powerful emotions and reactions they experience, the most common of which are:

Shock- this is always the immediate reaction to suicide, along with a physical and emotional numbness. This is the body's way of temporarily screening out the pain so that it can be experienced in smaller, more manageable steps.
Guilt- this often surfaces as the feeling, "If only I had done....," or "If only I had said or not said...."
Anger- this may be part of the grief response, whether directed toward the deceased, another family member, a therapist, or oneself.
Depression- this often appears with symptoms of disturbed sleep, fatigue, inability to concentrate, change in appetite, and feelings of hopelessness and despair.
Relief- this may be a part of the reaction when the suicide followed a long decline into self-destructive behavior or mental illness.
Why?- all survivors struggle long and hard with this question and may never find an answer that is acceptable to them. However, the reality is that suicide occurs in the presence of mental illness or substance abuse problems, with the #1 cause of suicide being untreated or inadequately treated depression.


Understanding and expressing these intense feelings, while learning about the causes of suicide, can
greatly advance the healing process. Below are some suggestions for survivors:
Maintain contact with other people during the stress-filled months after a loved one's suicide. Others may feel uncomfortable and unable to offer consolation. Take the initiative to talk about the suicide and ask for their help; it will also help them.
When you feel ready, share with your family and friends your feelings of loss and pain. Understand that each family member may be grieving in his or her own way.
Children experience many of the feelings that adults do. Remind them that they are still loved by sharing your thoughts and feelings with them and asking them to share theirs with you.
Anniversaries, birthdays, and holidays may be stressful reminders of the suicide. Plan these days to meet your own emotional needs.
You may need to feel guilty for awhile before you can accept the fact that you are not to blame and that you are only human, with human limitations.
It is worth trying to understand the feelings of the deceased, but no one gains when the struggle to understand the suicide becomes the only activity that seems worthwhile.
It is important to go on and eventually enjoy life again without feeling disloyal to the deceased.
The survivors of any death need comfort, support, and trusted listeners with whom they can discuss their grief. Unfortunately, the stigma of suicide often forces survivors into isolation, which is why many survivors find relief in support groups where they can voice their feelings and learn from the experiences of others.
Individual counseling with a mental health professional or clergy member is another option to help survivors through their grief.


A Bibliography For Suicide Survivors 

Suicide Why? by Adina Wrobleski 
After Suicide by John H. Hewett
Grieving A Suicide by Albert Y. Hsu
Grieving The Unexpected by Dr. Gary LeBlanc
Suicide Survivors: A Guide For Those Left Behind by Adina Wrobleski

Life After Suicide: Finding Courage, Comfort & Community After Unthinkable Loss by Jennifer Ashton 

After Suicide Loss: Coping With your Grief by Bob Baugher and Jack Jordon 
No Time to Say Goodbye: Surviving the Suicide of a Loved One by Carla Fine
Silent Grief: Living in the Wake of Suicide by Christopher Lukas and Henry M. Seiden

Healing After The Suicide Of A Loved One by Ann Smolin and John Guinan
My Son My Son? A Guide To Healing After Death, Loss or Suicide by Iris Bolton
Do They Have Bad Days In Heaven? Surviving the Suicide Loss of a Sibling by Michelle Linn- Gust
Night Falls Fast- Understanding Suicide by Kay Redfield Jamison
Andrew, You Died Too Soon- A Family Experience of Grieving and Living Again by Corinne Chilstrom
Our Forever Angel: Surviving The Loss Of A Loved One To Suicide by Barb Scholz
Standing In The Shadow: Help And Encouragement For Suicide Survivors by June Cerza Kolf
I Don't Want To Talk about It: Overcoming The Secret Legacy Of Male Depression by Terrence Real by Andrew Slaby

Someone I Love Died By Suicide: A Story for Child Survivors and Those Who Care for Them by Doreen Cammarata 
But I Didn't Say Goodbye: For Parents and Professionals Helping Child Suicide Survivors by Barbara Rubel
Guiding Your Child Through Grief by Mary Ann Emswiler and James Emswiler
Sad Isn't Bad: A Good-Grief Guidebook For Kids Dealing With Loss by Michaelene Mundy

Healing Your Grieving Heart: 100 Practical Ideas for Kids by Alan D. Wolfelt, PH. D. 

35 Ways To Help A Grieving Child by The Dougy Center