Where Do I Begin?
Losing a loved one to suicide often leaves the survivors with many difficult feelings that can be difficult to accept or overcome. These feelings can include:
- shock that your loved one would do this or that you didn’t see this coming.
- anger at them for leaving you
- anger at them for not coming to you for help
- anger at others who you blame for the death of your loved one.
- denial that they are really gone.
- shame at what people will think or say.
- guilt that you couldn’t help them, missed something or even caused their suicide.
- confused or worried about how your life will change without your loved one.
Survivors of suicide also struggle with the question of “Why?” While there is no definite answer to this question, we do know that the majority of individuals who attempt or die by suicide are suffering from some type of mental illness, mainly depression. Those who contemplate suicide are experiencing a pain so great that they cannot see any other way out of their situation and are desperate to stop the pain. All they see is darkness and suicide is the only solution to end their pain. This pain is usually caused by a combination of events. However, we oftentimes identify one major event as being the reason for the suicide, when that event was simply the one that pushed them over the edge. If we knew their reason(s) for suicide, in other words, the answer to “Why?”, it likely would make very little sense to us because our perception is logical, while the person considering suicide usually is not thinking in a rational way. As the healing process continues, survivors typically come to their own understanding of an answer to this question. The best case scenario would be to accept the fact that we may never truly know the complete reason(s) for the suicide.
Beginning the healing process following a loss to suicide can be very difficult or even traumatic for the survivor. There is no timeline for healing; grief following a suicide can be much lengthier than grieving a loss from any other death. With suicide, your loved one “chose” to die. Losing someone to suicide is not something that you will ever “get over.” However, with time, it does become easier to cope with this loss and the good news is that the worst part is already over with. Some things you can do to facilitate the grief process are:
- connect with other survivors through a survivor of suicide support group.
- talk openly and honestly with your family and close friends about your loss and experiences.
- read about suicide loss and grief.
- give yourself time and permission to grieve.
- practice self-care (includes anything that makes you feel rejuvenated, i.e. exercise, playing with pets or children, reading, writing or art, prayer, time with family or friends)
- journal about your grief and experiences or as a way to express thoughts and feelings to and/or about your loved one.
Here are a few other things to keep in mind as you experience your journey through grief:
- You might need to ask for support from family and friends, especially those that have been supportive of you in the past. Many people do not realize that this grief is different from that of “conventional” death and lasts much longer. It’s also possible that they want to be there for you, but do not know how to be supportive. Don’t be afraid to ask for specific things you need.
- People might make insensitive comments or ask how your loved one died. They are probably not intending to be insensitive, but just do not understand suicide and what you are going through. This could also be their way of offering support. Try not to be too hard on them. Also, if you are asked specific questions, be prepared to say, “I don’t care to talk about it” if that is truly how you feel.
- You might feel guilty for the good moments in your life. Eventually, you will start to smile or laugh a little. This can be a very confusing time for survivors, because experiencing joy might make you feel as though your loss is less important. You need to enjoy these moments when you can, because these simple pleasures will help you to get through your worst days. There will be plenty of sad moments to come and you deserve to enjoy every one of your happy times.
- Talk about your loved one and call them by name. This lets other know that you want to talk about your loved one and gives others permission to do the same.
SURVIVOR OF SUICIDE GRIEF SUPPORT GROUPS
The death of a loved one is never easy and grief is experienced differently for everyone. Jacob Crouch Suicide Prevention Services provides support groups that are especially tailored for survivors of suicide. These group meet in Lafayette and Opelousas and provide a safe place for those who have lost a loved one to suicide to share their struggles, experiences, and pain as they struggle to regain hope and strength. The groups are open to all survivors of suicide over the age of 18. The groups meet on two evenings each month and are free.
Please call our office at (337) 981-2180 for more information about the groups or to register.
SURVIVOR OF SUICIDE GRIEF SUPPORT GROUPS
Lafayette – 1st and 3rd Tuesday of each month from 6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Please contact The Family Tree at (337) 981-2180 for more information.
HEARTBREAK TO HEALING
Survivor of Suicide Support Group for family and friends who have lost a loved one to suicide. Group meets 2nd Monday of each month from 6pm to 8pm at the Vermilion Parish Public Library : 405 E. St. Victor, Abbeville, La 70510. Contact Alisha Trahan for more information: 337-523-2505
ALLIANCE OF HOPE
24 hour online support forum: https://forum.allianceofhope.org/index.
Resources for Those Grieving
HEALING HOUSE: (337) 232-0443
- Free group counseling for children who are grieving the loss of a parent or grandparent.
- A 12 week program that addresses multiple aspects of grief. Offered at various locations throughout Lafayette including Asbury United Methodist Church, St. Mary Catholic Church, Family Life Church, First Baptist Church as other location. Please check with these locations for times and availability or visit their website at https://www.griefshare.org/.
CLINIC FOR PERSONAL AND DEVELOPMENTAL COUNSELING: (337) 482-1018
- Offers free counseling to anyone in the community. Counseling services include individual, family, couples, groups and play therapy.
RESOURCE MANAGEMENT SERVICES: (337) 261-8781
- Provides free in-home counseling to individuals receiving Medicaid.
Acadiana Area Human Services District: (337) 262-4100
- Offers free counseling and mental health services to eligible individuals.
- A support group for parents who are grieving the loss of a child. Offered at various locations throughout Lafayette including East Bayou Baptist Church and St. Barnabas. Please check with these locations for times and availability.
HOSPICE OF ACADIANA: (337) 232-1234
- Free counseling for any individual who is experiencing grief.
Survivors of suicide are individuals who have been impacted by a death by suicide. If you are grieving or have grieved the loss of someone to suicide, you are a survivor. Survivors of suicide are at an increased risk for suicide, so we have included the following resources.
- If you can’t reach anyone or get yourself to the ER, call 911 and someone will come to you.
SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
- Free, 24-hour hotline.
- If you are established with a doctor or counselor, call their office and request an immediate appointment.
LIFELINE CRISIS CHAT
- This website is run by the same individuals as the Suicide Prevention Lifeline, but allows you to chat with a helping professional. Crisischat.org is available from 1:00 p.m. – 1:00 a.m. Currently, they are unable to respond to all chats. In the event that a helper is unavailable, you will be asked to try again in 30 minutes. Please use The Suicide Prevention Lifeline as a backup if a helper is unavailable.
CRISIS TEXT LINE
- Free crisis support services for teens, 24 hours a day. To use, text “START” to 741741.
- You can walk in to any hospital ER for assistance.
Many survivors find that reading helps them to grieve more effectively. The following is a list of online resources that we recommend.
These are rarely ever included on resource lists, but these are very important. Personal resources could include anything that have been a source of strength or motivation for you. Examples include family members or friends, pets, prayer, exercise, hobbies, etc. Make a list of your personal resources and use them often!
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do we say “Survivor of Suicide?”
A survivor of suicide is someone who has lost someone to suicide. We say survivor to reflect the idea that you truly are a survivor by the nature of your experiences. We call individuals who have survived a suicide attempt “attempt survivors.”
Similarly, we say that someone has “died by suicide” or “completed suicide” as opposed to “committed suicide” as the later reflects the notion of suicide being a criminal act.
Why should I attend support group?
Survivor of suicide (SOS) support groups allow a unique opportunity for survivors to connect, share experiences of coping, feelings, frustrations, etc. Someone is always willing to listen in a support group. Talking allows survivors to organize and make sense of their thoughts and feelings, which facilitates the healing process. In addition, groups help grievers to understand that their feelings and experiences surrounding their loss are normal, can provide education on grief and allows for monitoring any feelings of suicide that might arise for survivors.
Do I need to seek additional help?
Some survivors do need to seek help beyond support group, but not everyone. Individuals who need additional help are typically those that have experienced trauma beyond the norm for suicide. This could include finding the body of the deceased, experiencing multiple losses in a short time or having additional life stressors. A survivor might not have any of these situations but feels the need for individual counseling. Given the proper respect, counseling can be helpful to most individuals experiencing grief.
Why am I not better yet?
There is no timeframe for grief, particularly after a suicide. Suicide is a traumatic experience and this type of grief will likely last longer than grief you might have experienced in the past. Time starts to heal your wounds, but you will never completely “get over” your loss. Eventually, you will start to have more good days and less bad ones. However, be fully prepared for setbacks. A memory of your loved one, a song, scent or event that reminds you of them could cause sadness and tears. In the beginning, it is especially important to allow yourself to feel the sadness. Over time, it will be helpful to learn to redirect your attention and remain calm and positive during these emotional setbacks.