Warning: The following content may be a trigger to some, as it refers to the five stages of grief after suicide . Reader discretion is advised.
For those of you who have lost a loved one to suicide, we at Depression Sanctuary would like to extend our deepest sympathies. We are here to guide you and support you on your recovery journey.
After losing someone suddenly, especially to something like suicide, it is important for you to take care of yourself and your mental health. It’s important that you talk to someone about how you are feeling, whether it be a therapist, a trusted family member or friend, or even someone here at Depression Sanctuary. Keeping your emotions bottled up inside you can be unhealthy.
It’s also important to recognize the stages of grief and how they appear and affect you.
It’s perfectly normal to not go through all the stages of grief; everyone grieves differently. Some people may get stuck in one stage for a while, while others may move through the stages very quickly, and some may skip stages all together. It depends on the person.
- Shock. Of course, it’s obvious that when you lose a loved one suddenly there will be a fair amount of shock and disbelief. This can present itself as a sort of emotional numbness. Your shock response and a feeling of numbness is your body’s effort to keep you from becoming increasingly overwhelmed with emotion. It’s completely normal to be in a state of shock after something traumatic happens; it’s part of our body’s natural Triple F response (Fight, Flight or Freeze). Your body has chosen to freeze to protect itself from further emotional damage. This can allow the body to function “properly” as you try to go about your daily routine.
- Denial. In some instances, people may struggle to accept, consciously or unconsciously, the death of a loved one. This can be more challenging when there is little information about the suicide, such as the loved one showing no warning signs prior to their death. This can also present itself as denying your feelings about the death. Some people believe that they need to hold strong no matter what. But, its okay to not be okay. Once again, bottling up your feelings isn’t healthy when dealing with a loss.
- Guilt. It is very common for people to feel guilty when it comes to suicide. This is your brain trying to reason with why your loved one could have taken their own life. In reality, it is not your fault, and could have’s and would have’s will only make your healing process harder. You shouldn’t blame yourself for not knowing what was going on in your loved one’s mind at the time of their death. People who contemplate and act on their suicidal thoughts are often very good at hiding their emotions from their families. It’s important to remember it is never your fault.
- Sadness. For a lot of people experiencing grief, this could be their most intense emotion. During this stage, it is extremely important that you seek attention for your own mental health. It is not unusual for you to feel depression, hopelessness, frustration or self-pity. It is important to try your best to focus on the happy memories that you have of your loved one instead of the bad.
- Anger. It is completely normal to feel anger or abandonment when thinking about the death of your loved one. Whether it be towards the person who has passed, or the person you believe to be the cause of their untimely passing. When suicide occurs, many people will feel that their death was selfish. But, it’s important to remember that, in their mind, the only way they could feel at ease was to pass on. In some cases, suicidal people believe that they are putting their own families out of the misery of dealing with them. So, it’s important to note that passing judgment onto your passed loved one doesn’t help with your healing process.
- Acceptance. This stage could take time to accomplish for some. This is the ultimate stage of healing. It is the moment when you realize that continuing to live your life to the fullest is the best way to honor your loved one. It will continue to be a struggle, you will always miss them, but your life continues and you will survive.
Losing someone to suicide may feel different from other loss. There are a lot of conflicting emotions that surround their passing. As previously stated, it is extremely important that you take care of your mental health following this traumatic event. It will make going through daily tasks extremely difficult. But, you are not alone. There are thousands of people around the world who are, or who have, felt the same emotions as you. It is important to stay present and to focus on your healing process. You will get better and life will continue; and, if you believe, you will have an angel over your shoulder guiding you along the way.
“Helping a Student Who Has Lost a Friend or Family Member to Suicide.” VAV Healthy Relationships, The University of Texas at Austin Counseling and Mental Health Center, www.cmhc.utexas.edu/bethatone/studentscopingsuicide.html.