I wish I could say I had not been touched by grief and loss but, of course, I am a human being and have been. Some of the most poignant losses in my life were those who died by suicide. With someone who dies of natural causes or disease, there can be regret when looking back on memories of the relationship and wishing that something different had been said or done. Sometimes people have been able to reconcile the bigger instances of challenge with that person before they died and can have more peace and acceptance. When a friend or loved one dies by suicide, there are different questions with a strong energy behind them about: What happened? What could I have done differently to help? How did I contribute to this? There is a greater feeling of personal blame and responsibility, though, of course, this is nothing that any individual is responsible for. Unfortunately those who have people in their lives with Addiction and/or Mental Health concerns are at an increased risk of experiencing a death by suicide.
The impact of suicide is far reaching, much bigger than what the person who has died believes. As a therapist, I have worked with many people experiencing suicidal ideation and hear often how they believe that the loss of their life would impact nobody, or maybe they can recognize it would have an impact on a few close loved ones. They are in a place of such self-doubt that they do not see the significance of that death to coworkers, past friends, people connected with their loved ones, people who have met them or spent time with them in the past, their healthcare providers, and so many others. We see this when a celebrity or public figure dies by suicide and how so many people, though they did not know that individual personally, respond with sadness, shock, blame, grief, and how it sometimes spurs them to want to harm themselves. It is a powerful cycle and one that is very important for people to have support with.
I am very grateful to my friend, Stephanie Sikorski at Bowmont Counselling for her dedicated and loyal service to her clients. She recently put together some resources on dealing with loss that I wanted to share.
Grief Recovery After a Substance Passing
Navigating Grief and Loss as a Result of Substance Use:
Coping with a Loved One’s Suicide Article
List of info and resources for Suicide Loss:
General Grief Info:
Books by type of loss:
Understanding Your Grief after a Drug-Overdose Death, Dr. Alan Wolfelt
Understanding Your Suicide Grief: 10 Essential Touchstones for Finding Hope and Healing Your Heart, Dr. Alan Wolfelt
General grief books:
Understanding Your Grief: Ten Essential Touchstones for Finding Hope and Healing Your Heart, Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D.
How To Go On Living When Someone You Love Dies, Therese A. Rando
Tear Soup: A Recipe for Healing After Loss, Pat Schwiebert, Chuck DeKlyen (2005).
This is, of course, not a complete list of all of the resources out there but it is a great starting point. I would also recommend looking in your local area for support groups, centers, professionals and other resources to support you in preventing death by suicide as well as navigating any loss that you or those around you have experienced.
If you are worried about someone you care about being at risk of harming themselves, it is important to have an open channel of communication with them, not to shy away from talking openly and asking them honestly where they are at in a direct manner. For example asking them, “Are you thinking of harming yourself?” rather than talking in code or vaguely. If they are at imminent risk (have a plan, means to harm, and are expressing intent), please do not handle this situation alone and contact local authorities to help. If you cannot or will not contact them, please reach out to someone close to you or someone close to them for support so that none of you need to navigate this alone.
If you are experiencing a loss, please remember to:
- Take care of the basics (food, rest, hydration)
- Take time for yourself and quiet reflection
- Honor the rituals and ceremonies that you need for healing and processing
- Surround yourself with people you feel comfortable with
- Seek out support, if needed
- Remember you are not alone and these feelings will not be as intense forever
- Focus on tangible tasks to provide some sense of presence and grounding
- Take time outside for fresh air
- Turn to your self-care practices for support
- Be gentle and kind
Remember that grief comes from love and it was beautiful to love as you did.
Wishing you wellness.