5 Things to Know If Your Loved One Dies by Suicide
I have written a lot about what to do before, during and after a suicide attempt. I guess that’s because the people who are here on my blog are the survivors and the loved ones, mostly, of suicide attempt survivors.
But there’s a underserved community in conjunction with suicide — the loved ones left behind by suicide. They are suicide survivors, too. These people are left with a void. These people are left with a hole in their hearts and a hole in the information that’s available. But there are things I think you should know if your loved one dies by suicide.
1. His (or her) suicide is not your fault.
This is a big one. Huge. You have to understand no matter how it went down, the suicide is not your fault. You didn’t force him. You didn’t give her that final push. Even if the last thing you did was scream at him — that didn’t cause his suicide.
His suicide was about him (and most likely his mental illness), not you. His suicide is not your fault.
2. It’s OK to feel angry with, and hurt by, the person who killed himself.
When a person dies you feel loss and you mourn that loss, but mourning a loss due to suicide is more complicated because there are so many contradictory feelings in play. You feel guilty because you didn’t do more. You feel hurt because he didn’t come to you. You feel angry the person won’t be there at your wedding. You feel profound sadness this person is no longer in your world.
And so on, and so on, and so on. The feelings pile up one on top of each other until you’re standing on a hill of confusion, seemingly, with no way down.
This is normal. Those horrible things you’re thinking about the victim of the suicide? Normal. Feeling angry? Normal. Feeling hurt, loss, sadness, guilt? All normal, normal, normal, normal. In short, whatever you are feeling is normal for you. It will hurt and it will be confusing but you will work through it.
3. You may never understand why someone you love died by suicide.
There are exceptions to this, but predominantly, you’re just not going to understand what drove that person you loved to suicide at that moment. You’re not going to understand why he didn’t call a helpline. You’re not going to understand why he didn’t reach out to you or someone else and say he was suicidal. You’re not going to understand why, of all the moments, he chose that one to end his life. I can tell you that it had to do with ending pain, but that’s about all we know.
You’re just not going to understand his suicide — you can’t. It’s not possible. Even if you were one of the few who were left a suicide note, you still won’t understand all the deep questions that come up. Sometimes we need to learn that there are no answers, only painful questions.
4. You will try to look for the logic behind your loved one’s suicide.
Because you’re a thinking, feeling, rational human being, you will try to look for the logic behind your loved one’s suicide. You won’t be able to find this logic because suicide is not a rational, logical choice. Acting on suicide only makes sense in the mind of someone who is in such extreme pain that most would find it unfathomable. The logic exists in the illness and if you don’t suffer the same way, you’re likely never going to see it.
5. The pain from suicide will get better.
The emotions will be almost unbearably painful and they will seem to swallow you whole — but that won’t last forever. The anguish that you feel will lessen. The outrage you feel will quell. You will heal from this wound that feels impossible to heal from. Grief often feels like the end of the world but it really never is. It’s just an interruption to your world. A horrible, nasty, massive, painful, angry interruption — but one that won’t last forever. I promise.
While You’re Processing the Emotions of Suicide
And while you’re working through all the painful questions and emotions tied to suicide, remember this — take care of yourself. Going through something this difficult makes you vulnerable emotionally and physically so make sure you meet the basic requirements of sleeping, eating, drinking enough water and going outside from time to time. I know those things tend to fall by the wayside during times like these, but you need to focus on them because they’re going to only make you stronger to face the pain that suicide leaves in its wake.
Survivors of Suicide Resources
If your loved one has died by suicide, you may wish to check out:
- Survivors of Suicide website, including their resources page
- Find a support group through the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
- Healing after a Loved One’s Death by the Mayo Clinic
- Suicide and suicide attempt resources
And there are many, many more that are more local. Just Google “suicide survivors support your area.”
My thoughts are with you. You shouldn’t have to go through this, but you don’t have to go through this alone. Reach out.
Follow this journey on Bipolar Burble.
If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources.
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
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