Suggestions for survivors
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- Remember that responsibility for the death lies with the deceased. No one is to blame, including us. Blame is judgmental and accusatory and a form of denial. Responsibility, on the other hand, is a statement of fact. The only person who is responsible for a suicide is the person who died. We need not feel guilty.
- Having done (X) may not mean that our loved one would still be alive. This is assuming that we have more power than we actually do. One of us might say, “If only I’d done (X),” while another might say, “If only I’d not done (X).”
- Let your anger out. Once you express it, it’s easier to embrace happy thoughts and memories of your loved one.
- Remember that our minds have a natural ability to heal. While our lives may be changed forever, it does not mean that they will be painful forever.
- Remember that pushing aside feelings of grief and pain will prolong them.
- Remember that having feelings of relief is normal. Give yourself a break. Have some self-compassion.
- Remember that “life is a gift that we honor by living” (Jackson, 2003, p. 20). While knowing that our loved ones have chosen death, strength can lie in knowing that we have chosen life.
- For persons who witnessed a suicide, photos, memories, and funeral viewings may supplant the vision.
- A need to understand suicide. Sometimes we have a desire to understand why the suicide happened or to seek explanations. We may search for advice and hard facts.
- Barriers to help. These barriers may include the following:
- While we may think that we know why the suicide occurred, false conclusions may add to our pain.
- Accept the reality that the suicide occurred, separating myth from fact.
- Remember that many people who die by suicide were rescued previously.
- Remember that your loved one is beyond your help in every way but one. You can help your loved one by working to ease the pain that they caused and by not allowing the tragedy to be their enduring legacy.
- Remember that you can create or recreate a new life while still honoring your loved one.
- It’s helpful for families to pull together with mutual support and the open sharing of feelings. Parents overcompensating by over-focusing uncomfortably on or withdrawing from siblings of the deceased, as though they have nothing left to give, is not helpful.
- Parents can remember that children are not entirely of your making. By having the power to commit a violent act they are responsible for that act.
- Remember that even the most caring spouse cannot assume responsibility for their spouse’s suicide. The root causes are emotional illness, depression, and other factors beyond our control—not any shortcomings we may or may not have.
- Share anecdotes and stories with other survivors.
- The fear of stigma can become self-fulfilling if we wrongly project negative thoughts onto other people. Rather than letting fear about people’s judgments haunt you, give people the benefit of the doubt.
- Take care of your physical health—something that may be the last thing on your mind.