I choose to talk about Suicide in a separate tab since it differs from all other deaths, in the sense that suicide is death caused by injuring oneself with the intent to die.
Following information can be found https://klinic.mb.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/After-a-Suicide-A-Practical-and-Personal-Guide-for-Survivors.pdf
THOUGHTS OF SUICIDE
Due to the intensity of the grief, some people just want the pain to end and may begin to experience thoughts of suicide. Having these thoughts is not unusual and it does not mean that you will act on. However, it is important to ask for and seek help to discuss these thoughts and feelings.
“If you are new to the tragedy of a suicide, despair may be your companion. We hope you find some time to rest your burden and share your grief with those of us who do not need any explanation.
You are not alone.
The fact that someone died by suicide does not change our love for them, what they meant to us, their value, the contribution they made, and our right to celebrate and honour their lives. When someone dies by suicide, it does not mean that they did not love or value us. How a person dies does not define their life, us, or our relationship with them.
Grief associated with a death by suicide can be complicated, and also very different to what people experience following death by other causes. Immediately after a suicide death, people are often in shock and unable to describe or explain their feelings or make meaning of what has happened. You may need time before you feel ready to examine what has happened, how it has affected you, what it all means, and what you need in order to begin healing.
Words matter, and the language we use can either support people’s healing and offer comfort, or further stigmatize tragic situations and increase shame and secrecy. Stigma makes it all the more difficult for people to reach out for help. The terms “committed suicide” and “completed suicide” present particular problems because they are also used in connection with criminal offences. Suicide is not a crime, but negative terminology can place undue emphasis on how a person died, potentially linking their identity with how they died. In addition, the term “successful suicide” does not reflect reality – suicide is always a tragedy. “Suicide”, “death by suicide” and “died by suicide” more accurately reflect what has occurred.
WHY PEOPLE DIE BY SUICIDE
Suicide occurs when someone’s despair overcomes their hope. People who experience suicidal thoughts and feelings are suffering tremendous emotional pain. They have overwhelming feelings of hopelessness, despair and helplessness. People considering suicide feel as though their pain will never end and that suicide is the only way to stop their suffering. When people have thoughts of suicide, they often feel disconnected from others and the world around them. Someone can feel alone and hopeless even when surrounded by people who love and support them. Their pain can overwhelm their ability to ask for help and see options. At these times, it is difficult for them to access the caring and support around them.
Many factors and circumstances can contribute to someone’s decision to end their life. Factors such as loss, addictions, trauma, depression, physical and mental illness, and major life changes can make some people feel overwhelmed and unable to cope.
-It is important to remember that it is how a person experiences an event that is important, not the event itself. What might seem small and unimportant to us may seem large and unbearable to someone else.
-It is also important to remember it is not your fault that someone else made the decision to end their life.
KNOW WHAT TO EXPECT FROM YOURSELF AND OTHERS
Contrary to what others may think and want, you don’t and won’t just “get over it”. All grief journeys are unique. Do not make any assumptions about how long your grief might last and what you will experience. Instead, consider taking it “one day at a time”. As Dr. Alan Wolfert says, there is “no reward for speed”.
Emotional reactions to a suicide can be intense and complicated. Any death is a painful experience, regardless of the circumstances and whether it was expected or unexpected. A suicide death is traumatic and can leave someone feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope. People respond to traumatic events in their own way, according to their individual coping skills, past experiences and supports.
The trauma of suicide can become a defining moment in a person’s life and can change all the rules. It can cause someone to question their sense of self, others, faith and beliefs, as well as the world around them. For a while, nothing feels certain, and trying to re-establish order, meaning and balance is all the more difficult when we try to do it alone.
Right after the death of a loved one, people often find it hard to think clearly. It is not unusual to feel sick, angry, and overcome by sadness. And it is not unusual to feel ashamed, guilty and embarrassed, or even numb or nothing at all. Frequently people have difficulty concentrating and sleeping, and may find themselves continually replaying what has happened over and over in their mind. Sometimes people minimize the effect this event has had on them. Even in the same family, people will grieve, react and cope differently.
Your reactions may be stronger if you saw your loved one’s death or found them after they died. It is important to remember that you are not to blame for their choices. Try to get help and talk to others.
Sometimes people feel relief after a suicide, especially when the relationship with the person who died was difficult and chaotic, or if they were suffering for a long period of time. It is not unusual for some people to become depressed following a suicide, and may themselves experience thoughts of suicide. There are trained and caring counsellors who can and want to help you. Remember that time, sharing and support can move us to hope and healing and make us stronger.
COMMON REACTiONS TO A SUICIDE DEATH
There are some common feelings you might expect to experience after a suicide. These feelings are completely normal, given the circumstances. But it is important you remember that what you feel today is not how you will always feel. You will heal and you are not alone. There are people who want to listen and to help. You only have to ask.
The death of someone precious is not to be resolved or fixed, but rather to be expressed, experienced, and gently, over time, to find its way to meaning. Never forget, however, that it does not mean there isn’t peace, less pain, acceptance, accommodation, joy, and new meaning in our lives. We learn to live alongside our grief and to grow from it.
Each person will grieve differently. There is no right or wrong way to mourn the loss of your loved one.
In the weeks and months following a suicide death, some people will have nightmares and flashbacks, focus on the act of suicide itself, blame themselves and others, isolate themselves, and have no energy to do tasks. Family conflict may arise due to intense emotions and different ways of grieving.
Shock and numbness
Suicide bereavement is one of the most intensely painful experiences you are likely to undergo. Initially, the pain may be so overwhelming that you turn off some of your emotions. You may feel like you are sitting in the audience watching a play about your own life, but not really taking part in that life yourself. Emotional numbness protects you from what has just happened, but at some point the numbness leaves and you will need to gradually experience the pain that has been buried.
Deep sadness is normal. Other common feelings associated with this sadness can include helplessness, hopelessness, fear, failure, anxiety, rejection and abandonment.
You may fear that other family members or friends might die. A loss of self esteem, confidence, purpose and meaning in life can create that fear and contribute to depression.
The world as you know it changed when your loved one died. Grief impacts everything, including sleep, eating habits, concentration, energy and motivation. It is important to pay attention to the signs of depression and to seek help if you notice yourself becoming depressed.
Anger and blame
Anger and blame may be directed toward the person who died by suicide or toward those you perceive to be at fault.
Family and friends of those who died by suicide often feel they missed earlier warning signs of distress. Others may have decided to give up trying to help, or backed away because they themselves needed some distance in order to stay healthy. Hindsight almost always plays a role in our feeling guilty for what we think should have and could have done, but that is a false accusation. You are not responsible for your loved one’s decision to take their own life.
It may be difficult for you to discuss how someone died because you are afraid you will be judged. Rather than make up stories, it is okay to simply let people know you are not ready to talk about the loss. Let family and friends know what you need from them. Secrecy will only intensify any feelings of shame.
You may experience some feelings of relief after a suicide, especially when the relationship with the person who died was difficult and/or you watched them suffer for a long period of time.
You may not fully accept the reality of the suicide. You may move in and out of denial. This is especially common in the initial phase of grief.
Asking “why” over and over in an effort to make sense of what has happened is a normal part of the healing process following a death by suicide. With suicide, even when people think they have touched upon or know the “answer”, the “Why” question can continue to surface. We struggle to find answers in an effort to ease our pain, but there is seldom an answer to our asking “why” that provides the relief and comfort we seek. In fact, comfort often comes from other sources and sometimes in unexpected ways.
Changes in relationships
If people do not know what to say or do after a suicide, they may say or do nothing. As a result, you may feel abandoned at a time when you need people the most. Some people may pull away completely, which only adds to the hurt.
Spiritual or religious beliefs
Previously held spiritual beliefs and values may be challenged and you may begin to question the meaning and purpose of life. Your religious or spiritual life might be deepened, challenged, renewed or changed as a result of your grief.
MOVING FORWARD THROUGH GRIEF : LET OTHERS HELP YOU
Mourning the death of someone who died by suicide usually requires the support of others. No one should expect to do it alone. As mentioned earlier, some people may not know how to support you and some may pull away, but even one compassionate, understanding and supportive person can make a big difference. It is important to find that person, and you may not have to look far. Support is all around you.
It can be difficult asking for help, but please do it. Coping with all the feelings is much easier if you let other people help you and share your burden. Ask your friends, Elders, spiritual leader or a professional to support you in making decisions, and to help you identify and communicate what you need and want at this difficult time. Talk to your doctor or seek out medical help or help from a mental health professional, especially if you notice yourself becoming depressed. Asking for help is the smart thing to do.
Claim Your Right to Grieve
Not only is it important to grieve, it is necessary to experience the pain of your loss in order to gain relief.
Grief is emotional. Let people you trust know when you need support. Show them how they can be helpful. Talk to others who have experienced a loss by suicide. Crying is good and so is sharing your tears. If people don’t know what to say or do, tell them that they don’t have to do anything other than simply be there for you.
If you feel you need more support than family or friends can provide, contact your doctor, your spiritual advisor, a counselling agency, your local crisis line,…
Take care of your physical health and be aware of what your body is telling you. Do something active rather than just sitting and thinking. Physical activity is healthy and helps with healing and recovery. This could include walking, exercising, meditating, yoga, Qigong, writing, drawing, painting, or other forms of self expression and creativity. To learn more about other ways of coping with stress, visit http://www.de-stress.ca.
Walking the Path of Grief Grieving Takes Time
As your spirit begins to heal, your feelings will change. Grieving takes time and the amount of time is different for each person. Celebrate your loved one and honor them by remembering good things, stories, and the time you shared with them. Share these memories with others who you trust and who will listen to you, and also with your children. Others can sometimes see things that you cannot at this time and can help you continue on your way to healing. Remember that each person’s individual grief journey is their own and do not allow others, no matter how good their intentions are, to make you doubt your feelings. Persons who are grieving are doing the best they can at that time.
Laughter can be very healing, so do not feel guilty about having some moments of joy during this difficult time. Some people have described their emotions as being so interconnected and close to their grief that they began laughing. Occasionally, laughter turned to tears without them even realizing the change of their emotions. Although that can be very confusing and perhaps feel like a setback, it is a normal part of grief and healing.
Healing does not mean forgetting those who have died by suicide. You do not dishonor their memory when you heal, laugh, and live your life again. Your life may not be exactly as it was before, but that does not mean it needs to be worse. As a result of what has happened, over time you may know yourself more, have a better understanding of who you are and what you need, have new or different priorities, and be more involved in taking care of yourself and taking charge of your own mental health. There may be a period of time when you feel like dying because of their death and gradually begin to live again because of your love.
Some friends and family feel even more alone many months after their loved one’s death. As time passes, others may think you no longer need their support. It is not unusual to relive many of the emotions of grief over and over in the years ahead. Be prepared to face some difficult times, and remember that even if you feel alone, there are family, friends and people in your community who are willing to help if you ask them. As well, you can always talk to a counsellor, no matter how much time has passed since your loved one died.
Keep on Talking
When you talk about your loved one’s death, you help others to learn about suicide and to share their feelings with you. Keeping suicide a secret makes it harder to heal. People from all communities and cultures have been touched by suicide. Some people prefer to deal privately with the death of their loved one and only share with a few. Let others know how you wish to deal with your loss. When the pain of your loss is too great, try to find something else to do for a short time – this may help settle your emotions and spirit. You need not feel guilty for taking a break from your grief; it is necessary for your healing. It is also okay to want some alone time, and to let those who care about you know when you need to be alone. Remember to do what feels right for you, and know that it is okay to say “No” when invited to do things you really don’t want to do.
Cherish Your Memories
Often those bereaved by suicide, both adults and children, have found comfort in holding on to items that remind them of their loved one. Some parents have even made quilts of their children’s remaining clothes. Elders and other community leaders remind us to find balance in all things. Cherish these items and keep them close to you for comfort, but try not to become so attached to them that they keep you glued to your grief. Ultimately we learn to find and take comfort from within as well as from the world around us.
Some people have found it helpful to write stories, journals and letters to the loved one who died or to others they feel may have been neglected through their grief journey, and sometimes even to themselves. There are many creative ways of communicating and processing our thoughts and feelings it’s a matter of finding the one with which you feel the most comfortable.
There will be many times during your journey when things become more difficult, like the day of your loved one’s death, birthdays, and holidays. You may have mixed feelings in the weeks leading up to those days. It helps to plan ahead and talk to other family members, friends and significant others about how you want to spend the day. This gives everyone a chance to prepare and support each other.
Finding the Answers
You may never know the answer to “Why?” In most cases, your loved one was in a lot of emotional pain for a long period of time. Eventually you will be able to live with questions that do not get answered. Take care of yourself by following your regular routine so you can begin to heal. Try to eat regularly and as healthy as you can. Try to sleep and keep your energy levels up. Listen to some favorite music, enjoy your pet, or focus on a hobby. Go for a walk every day, or just spend some time outside with nature to remind you that it’s important to keep going in your own life and for others left behind.
Sharing Circles and Support Groups
As time goes by, you may find it helpful to talk to others who have been bereaved by suicide. The healing power and comfort of a shared experience is very strong. Many cities have peer support groups, friendship centres or gathering groups specifically designed to help.
If you are not comfortable or not ready to share in a group, perhaps ask for help from counsellors, clergy, nurses, clinics, crisis lines and chat rooms. There are some resources listed at the back of this handbook for that purpose.
Children and Teenagers
All children grieve. Any child old enough to love and bond with another person is able to and will grieve. Therefore, all children need to be encouraged to participate in mourning rituals.
Children take their cues from parents and other adults because we are their emotional teachers. When children see and experience our grief, their own feelings and reactions are normalized and validated. They are given permission to express their own feelings and share them with others. If, however, they see us hiding our grief, they will also learn to hide and bury their feelings.
There is actually much we can learn from children in processing feelings and grief. Children seem to have an almost natural and instinctive ability to heal, and tend to play out their experiences and grief in small doses, weaving times of play between times of sadness and grief. Even so, during the grieving process, they need us to help them feel safe and secure, included, and to know that what they feel is not unlike what they see in others.
Children and teenagers call tell when you are sad. They will ask questions and they need you to tell them the truth. If someone else tells them about your loved one’s death, they can become scared or anxious and feel alone. It is okay to tell them your loved one was “so very sad, confused or in pain that they forgot they could get help”. Let them know you understand, that you have the same feelings as they have, that those feelings are natural, and that it is okay to show those feelings.
Reassure them that someone will always be there to take care of them. And let them know that it is not their job to make things better for the family or to take care of others.
Children and teenagers may also ask questions about why the loved one died or where they went. You may not be able to answer their questions, but you can reassure them that nothing they said or did could have prevented the loved one from dying. Comfort them and let them know they are still loved and you will always listen to them. Remind children that when they feel sad, it is important for them to talk to someone and ask for help.
If you cannot talk about what happened, let your children know this and help them by letting them talk with other family members, Elders, people they trust, or a counsellor.
While in many ways children and teenagers react in the same way as do adults, for example feeling sad and lost, that they are to blame, there can be some differences. They may feel:
- Alone – the person who died didn’t love them
- Afraid – they will die also
- Fearful – someone else they love will die
- Worried – who will take care of them – they wished or thought of that person’s death
- Lonely – where did the person go and when are they coming back In denial – pretend that nothing happened
- Numb – can’t feel anything
- Frustrated – wish it would all go away
- Embarrassed – to see other people or to go back to school
- Angry – with the person who died, at God, at everyone
Many of these feelings mirror what adults experience, and are by no means unique to children. However, children are sometimes more forthcoming in letting us know what they really think and feel. Remember that whatever your children and teenagers are feeling, they need support and opportunities to find expression, to be seen and to be heard. They also need to know that the person loved them, but because they were so sad, very confused, or in so much pain, they could not tell you and forgot that they could get help.
How Others Can Help
Here are some suggestions as to what others can do to help you through your grief:
- Listen without judging you or your loved one’s actions.
- Accept the intensity of your grief and feelings, and not attempt to change what you think or feel.
- Listen with their hear t, and express their feelings with compassion. Cr y with you and sit quietly with you.
- Tolerate and accept the endless search for “why”.
- Do not assume or pretend to know your pain. Be open to learn and allow you to teach them about your experience.
- Make your loved one who died real by using their name, asking to see pictures, asking about their life.
- Offer and provide information when appropriate. Know what supports are available in your community.
- Be mindful that you may be experiencing feelings of guilt and blaming yourself. Remind you that this was not your fault and that you are not take responsible for your loved one’s choice.
- Remind you that your feelings are valid and normal considering what has happened.
- If they think you may be suicidal, to ask you directly about suicide and get help immediately.
- Be sensitive to difficult days like the anniversary of your loved one’s death, birthdays, and holidays.
- Respect your grieving process. Be patient and continue to offer help, even if you refuse it.
- Be there because it makes you feel less alone, but understand that some- times you want to be alone and other times you don’t.Note: It is okay to use the word “suicide” and it is also important to be sensitive to your wishes. Using the word and talking about suicide can help the healing process, but only you can judge for yourself when you are ready to do so.For more information, visit http://www.reasontolive.ca or http://www.suicideprevention.ca.