Someone I care about killed themselves

Taylor Adams, Mental Health America

Grieving over a loved one lost to suicide can be as complicated as it is devastating. It’s hard enough to lose someone you love, but it’s even harder to accept when there are so many unanswered questions.

You may be experiencing a whole host of unfamiliar feelings including confusion, shock, guilt, or blame. Their death could have come as a shock because they didn’t show any symptoms of a mental illness or warning signs of suicidal thinking. It may be shocking because they seemed fine in the days or hours leading up to their death. You might blame yourself for not seeing the warning signs and preventing it from happening. You may wonder why you weren’t enough for them to want to live, but you should know that people who are thinking about suicide often can’t see beyond the engulfing pain they feel in that moment. Their death is not a reflection of their relationship with you. You may feel angry at the person you lost, and it could feel like you left a lot of things unsaid or unsettled. At least these were some of the things I felt.

I’ve been there. When I lost someone I loved, the waves of unrelenting grief that washed over me felt unbearable. There were days that it didn’t matter what anyone said, nothing could take the pain away. Some days I felt relieved, and then guilty for feeling the slightest bit better. There is no shame in feeling the full range of emotions that come along with losing someone you love. And as you’ve probably been told, grieving is a process that takes time to eventually feel better. There is no immediate solution to take the pain away, but the pain will fade as time goes on. Your life may be forever changed without this person, but you will feel okay again. Don’t hesitate to seek out professional help if you need guidance on working out some of the more complicated effects of grief.

In the case of suicide, it may be difficult for you to tell others how your loved one died. What you decide to tell people is up to you and should be what you think is best for your healing process. In my experience, the immediate family of my loved one chose to be open about the circumstances of his death, and it was strangely comforting to hear this sense of raw honesty during the service.

It may also be difficult for people to console you. Chances are you probably haven’t stopped thinking about it, but people are afraid to bring it up. Or they don’t know what to say. These reactions can make you feel even more isolated. Ask for specific support from loved ones to help you cope with your grief. Talk to someone who can offer judgement-free support, patience, and a listening ear in a safe environment. Lean on someone who can say “I am here for you, and I will listen to you as long as it takes.” Allow for the time and the support necessary to grieve in a way that heals you and moves your life forward.

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