Suicide and Grief

Suicide is a topic that none of us feel comfortable discussing. However, with suicide gradually advancing on the list of leading causes of death in the United States, it is a fact of life we cannot ignore.

According to the American Association of Suicidology a suicide occurs every 16.6 minutes. Unfortunately, I know those statistics too well. As a funeral counselor I have served numerous families experiencing immeasurable grief caused by a loved one choosing to end their own life. When someone close to you dies, it can be difficult to let go. An unexpected death is especially hard to accept. Yet, when someone chooses to end his or her own life, accepting the death can seem impossible.

Following the suicide of a loved one, you may experience intensified grief reactions. You may go into shock, feel numb, be unable to move or simply to communicate. This is nature’s way of protecting you and letting you slowly accept what has happened. You may deny, at first, that your loved one was the victim of suicide. It is common for family and friends to insist that the death was an accident, despite all evidence to the contrary.

You may become angry with yourself or with those close to the victim for not seeing the signs and preventing the suicide. You might even feel anger toward the deceased for committing suicide.

Guilt frequently plagues both the parents and surviving children. Parents may feel that they failed their child; surviving children may believe that they did something to make their parent or sibling want to die. As you are trying to cope with your feelings of guilt, try not to criticize yourself too harshly for your behavior toward the victim while he or she was alive.

The grieving process is difficult, but necessary. There is no “normal” time span for grieving and no two people handle grief in the same way. A first step to grief recovery is to attend the funeral. In a way, it is an affirmation that your loved one has died; a commencement of your healing process and a show of support to other family members and friends.

It is very important that you share your tears and talk about your feelings with others. Your friends may feel awkward around you for a while because they do not know what to say. Tell them when you want to talk about the decedent and do not be afraid to use the word “suicide.” Suffering the loss of a loved one to suicide can be an extremely confusing and painful time. Do not suppress your feelings of grief. Instead, speak openly with those you trust. Remember that your funeral counselor is always ready to listen and provide counsel. As a survivor of a loss, you can and will learn to live a little more normally each passing day. While you may never forget, you will learn to endure and move on.