If you are, then you are a “Survivor of Suicide.” This does not mean that you tried to commit suicide and failed. This means that a loved one committed suicide and left behind survivors of their aftermath. Always there are family, friends and acquaintances that are left behind to wonder and ask the many questions that may never have answers: “Did I miss something?” “Did they leave any clues to what their intentions were?” “I should have taken them more seriously!” “Why didn’t they trust me?” “Why didn’t they love me enough to stay here and fight?” “How could I have not seen any signs?” The list goes on and on. It is this unending list of doubts and questions that plague the survivors of suicide. These unanswered questions, these unresolved issues can lead to complicated and disenfranchised grief.
In earlier postings we briefly discussed the concepts of complicated grief. Complicated grief can occur due to a variety of factors (back to back losses, traumatic and unexpected loss). Complicated grief can also occur when a person is experiencing disenfranchised grief. Disenfranchised grief occurs when a person cannot openly grieve or talk about their loved one because the death was socially unacceptable (HIV, overdose or suicide).
Complicated grief basically means that a person can experience the effects of grief for a longer period of time, perhaps years after the loss. In normal or typical grief, a person is helped through the grieving process by talking about their loved one. As counselors, we encourage people to tell their story, to remember, toshare as much as they can, as much as they want, to whoever will listen. Being able to verbalize thoughts, feelings and emotions about the loved one’s death, is one the best ways to move through the grief process.
Imagine not being able to talk about your loved one’s death because you were embarrassed, or didn’t want your loved one judged by others. Who do you turn to? Who do you talk to? How do you verbalize your thoughts, feelings and emotions so that you can begin to move through the grief process? It is no surprise to find out that family members grieving the loss of a loved one due to homicide, overdose or suicide have difficulty with grieving for years after the loss.
So once again, the important thing is to establish a support system. Put into place a system that involves people you trust, people who care for you, people who won’t judge you or your loved one. Refer back to the earlier post on “support systems” and fill out the form. If you find that you are lacking in your support, then find professional support. Don’t be shy – pick up the phone and call 800-882-1117 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Individual counseling with a counselor who specializes in grief and bereavement is always encouraged. Sometimes it is helpful just to talk to a counselor on the phone once in awhile. There are also people who enjoy e-support, where they can e-mail with the counselor, back and forth. Some have even shared that it is a form of journaling for them. These are all encouraged.
Finally, try a support group. However, I caution going to a support group that has “generalized” loss. It is my experience that people who have survived a suicide may find a specialized support group to be most beneficial. You can go to http://www.suicidology.org to get information on groups in your area. You can also go to http://www.selfhelpgroups.org.
Until next week, be well and have a happy 4th of July holiday.