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4 Ways to Promote Healing After Losing a Loved One to Suicide

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Last July, the music world was shocked when news broke that Chester Bennington, lead singer of Linkin Park, had tragically ended his life. Fans of the band around the world were devastated by Chester’s death, and band members grappled with feelings of confusion, guilt, grief and an unclear path of what to do next.

The effects of suicide are serious and far-reaching, regardless of whether the victim is a well-known rock star or not. Those affected who are trying to process the grief often struggle with their own mental health and have a greater risk for dying by suicide down the line, especially if they have a sense of guilt for not seeing the warning signs, which aren’t always apparent.

For Linkin Park, the initial shock caused them to cancel shows and take time away from the stage to process their heavy emotions. Mike Shinoda, Linkin Park’s rhythm guitarist and a talented songwriter, was close to Chester and was undeniably shaken by Chester’s death and decided to release an EP called “Post Traumatic” with three songs that no doubt help him deal with the grieving process.

If you are battling with the myriad of emotions that come after a loved one has died by suicide, it’s imperative that you reach out to as many outstretched hands as possible during this extremely difficult and trying time.

1. Seek professional help.

As a family member, friend or loved one of someone who has died by suicide, processing and compartmentalizing the event in the aftermath can seem impossible. Overwhelming feelings of guilt, shame, sadness and anger can stop a person from moving forward in their lives. Start by looking in your area for therapists that specialize in grief counseling and make an appointment with someone you believe you’ll be comfortable with after speaking to them on the phone. Remember the first meeting will probably be uncomfortable for you, but you are in no way obligated to continue visiting a therapist. Find one that you can speak openly to so you can start to process this traumatic life event.

2. Reach out to family and close friends.

During this time, you should try and stay in contact with close family and friends that will love and support you. Reach to those who will listen to you and ones who have been present in the past during hard times. Some days, you may want to stay away from everyone, and that’s completely understandable. What’s important is that you have a soft place to land while you’re trying to grieve.

3. Find a support group.

If you decide to meet with a therapist, they will most definitely be able to point you toward a support group that will help you meet others who have gone through a similar circumstance. If you’d like to find one on your own, try searching through the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention website that allows you to search for friends and families of suicides and Survivors of Loved Ones Lost (SOLO) groups in your area. These groups aren’t necessarily for everyone, but they help thousands of families face their grief with an empathetic group that keeps them from feeling alone.

4. Write, sing, express yourself.

Like Mike Shinoda, try taking your pain and putting it into your craft. Allow yourself the opportunity to make or do something you love, which can give you a release from the strong emotions you’re feeling. Even if you don’t consider yourself to be an artist, getting a journal and writing down what’s on your mind can be freeing.

Surviving a family or friend who has chosen to take their life is not an easy task, but it is an essential one. It can be exceedingly difficult to process and there’s no shame in reaching out for help. If you or anyone you know is struggling with suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Unsplash photo via Noah Silliman

Originally published: April 8, 2018
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