When someone you know and love deliberately ends their own life you get a free, lifetime membership into the not-so-very-exclusive “SOS Club” club. Comes with this fine label too: you are now forever a Survivor Of Suicide, or a “suicide survivor.”
If you lose someone to death by natural causes, or even if your loved one is murdered, you’re not called a “someone-murdered survivor” or a “death-by-natural-causes survivor.” Only suicide brings with it such a complicated mourning, and the following bewildering array of emotions:
- “Shock is often the immediate reaction to suicide, along with a physical and emotional numbness. These are the ways of temporarily screening out the pain so that it can be experienced in smaller, more manageable steps.
- Depression may appear as disturbed sleep, fatigue, inability to concentrate, change in appetite, and the feeling that nothing can make life worth living.
- Anger may be part of the grief response, whether directed towards the deceased, another family member, a therapist, or oneself.
- Relief may be a part of the reaction when the suicide followed a long decline into self-destructive behavior and mental anguish.
- Guilt often surfaces as the feeling, “If only I had done.”, “If only I had said or not said.”
- Why? Many survivors struggle long and hard with this question”
Taken from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Possibly because so many people kill themselves (twice as many as are murdered in many countries) and possibly because the rule-of-thumb wisdom is that each death impacts at least 6 other people deeply, (which gives us almost a quarter million new “suicide survivors” a year in the USA and 3 to 4 thousand new suicide survivors in New Zealand) there is a lot of very helpful information already published on the web.
Downloadable right here [ SOS_handbook ] is the Handbook of Survivors of Suicides, a wonderful small booklet, written by Jeffrey Jackson, and published by the American Association of Suicidology. I quote from the beginning:
This is a book for people who have lost a loved one to suicide, written by someone who has suffered the same loss. I lost my wife, Gail, to suicide several years ago. She was 33 when she took a deliberate overdose of pills.
And downloadable right here is [ Surviving a Suicide Loss-resource_healing_guide ] , published by the American Foundation for the Prevention of Suicide. The following words are from the front page:
We encourage survivors to gather, to remember, to speak aloud the precious names of those lost to suicide. You are in a safe place with those who understand. If you are very new to the tragedy of suicide loss, despair may be your companion. We hope you find some time to rest your burden and share it with those of us who need no explanation. There is no map on this path to becoming whole. It is the most painful of journeys — full of twists and turns, bruised hearts and misunderstandings. Small wonders appear on this path but we may be too sore or fragile to recognize them. But there will be a day when you can look back and know that they were there. We share your loneliness. We share your sorrow. We share your questions. We honor those we love who have been lost to suicide. May the radiance and beauty of their lives never be defined by their deaths.
Survivors are the most courageous people we know. Be well, be peaceful, be hopeful.
Resources for those in New Zealand
For The Newly Bereaved After Suicide
Support Groups around New Zealand for people bereaved by suicide
Resources for those in United States
American Foundation for the Prevention of Suicide
- The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) is the nation’s leading organization bringing together people across communities and backgrounds to understand and prevent suicide, and to help heal the pain it causes. Individuals, families, and communities who have been personally touched by suicide are the moving force behind everything we do.
- We strive for a world that is free of suicide.
- We support research, because understanding the causes of suicide is vital to saving lives.
- We educate others in order to foster understanding and inspire action.
- We offer a caring community to those who have lost someone they love to suicide, or who are struggling with thoughts of suicide themselves.
- We advocate to ensure that federal, state, and local governments do all they can to prevent suicide, and to support and care for those at risk.
The American Association of Suicidology whose mission is to:
- Advance Suicidology as a science; encouraging, developing and disseminating scholarly work in suicidology.
- Encourage the development and application of strategies that reduce the incidence and prevalence of suicidal behaviors.
- Compile, develop, evaluate and disseminate accurate information about suicidal behaviors to the public.
- Foster the highest possible quality of suicide prevention, intervention and postvention to the public.
- Publicize official AAS positions on issues of public policy relating to suicide.
- Promote research and training in suicidology.
Thanks for visiting. You can find the the rest of this mini-series on suicide here:
- Part 1 – “The woman who helped” in “I’ve got a loaded gun . . .”
- Part 2 – Who’s at Risk?
- Part 3 – Suicidal Friend?
- Part 4 – Suicide Survivor.
Pingback: Suicidal Friend? | Gemma Utting ~ Relationship Therapy
Thanks for sharing these excellent resources!
another factor which affects the grieving process for suicide survivors is the unfortunate side effect of not getting the same kind of compassionate support from others. After my fiance committed suicide, most of the people who supposedly cared about me were uncomfortable around me. My extended family in general were not even informed of my loss, hence years later most of my aunts, uncles and cousins didn’t even know it had happened. My core family and friends, for the most part, just “didn’t talk about it”. Three people asked me “what did you do to him?”, and in general I felt ostracized and alone in my grief.
So well put, and so sad. There you are desperately confused, sad, guilty, mad….and then as well, utterly alone. I am grateful you mentioned this aspect. It might encourage others who hear of a suicide to actively reach out to those closest to the lost loved one, so they might not have to go through what you experienced. Warmly, Gemma