How do we keep it all together while grieving a suicide loss? Suicide is one of the most devastating forms of loss that exists. The mixture of suddenness, self-inflicted violence and police involvement can leave us with our minds whirling uncontrollably.
It’s important to remember we are not the only ones who have lived through and survived such a horrific loss. We have many suicide loss survivors who have gone before us and they have blazed a trail of survivorship and healing for us. So, with that in mind, we take a look at some ways to get and stay grounded and centered during grief:
1. Don’t isolate. Isolating magnifies our sense of pain. This does not mean putting yourself with anybody you can find. A sense of discernment is required, which can be challenging. We need to put ourselves in the presence of people who care and understand, and who aren’t going to try to rewrite history for us or tell us how we are supposed to be feeling.
2. Ask for help. Millions of people have lost loved ones to suicide. And while this is sad and unfortunate, it also tells us that many have survived such a loss. While it isn’t easy, it is most certainly much harder to get through suicide loss alone. Asking for help, and getting it, is perhaps the strongest indicator that a person will be okay. Suicide loss survivor support groups, a sudden loss bereavement therapist, and private, small therapy groups can be a huge benefit.
3. Do only what you can do. Maybe you don’t want to go to that office Christmas party. Don’t! You are the best judge of how much you can handle. If the holidays are overwhelming you, create your own celebration at home with a close friend. During overwhelming times, less is more. Make sure to get lots of rest and sleep, eat healthy food and give yourself lots of time-outs!
4. Watch out for the mood altering substances. After a suicide loss, it can be very tempting to overdo it with alcohol, cigarettes, food, work, shopping — any compulsive activity prevents you from feeling your feelings. The addictions are merely symptoms for what’s going on underneath: not wanting to feel the pain of the loss. This is where a therapist becomes crucial in guiding you through your grief.
5. Steer clear of the critical people. Believe it or not, there will be some people out there who will condemn your loved one for dying by suicide. As if the pain isn’t enough, you have someone in the neighborhood who thinks suicide is a sin or a crime. Please remember these people are ignorant, uneducated and foolish and they perpetuate the stigma connected with brain disorders. It is not your job during this tender time to reform them. Avoid them.
Above all, be true to yourself. And remember, suicide is the result of a chemical imbalance caused by a brain disorder. Suicide has nothing to do with what you said, didn’t say, did, or didn’t do. It’s time to start cutting yourself a break and learning to love yourself. Right now!
Catherine Greenleaf is a suicide loss survivor, and author of the highly acclaimed book, Healing The Hurt Spirit: Daily Affirmations For People Who Have Lost a Loved One to Suicide. She is a spiritual counselor and a member of the Association for Death Education and Counseling. She travels nationwide to speak to suicide loss survivors about how to persevere after suicide loss. You can read more of her work on her blog, or follow her on twitter.