The death of a loved one can be a trying time, but losing a loved one to suicide can be especially devastating. If you have recently experienced suicide loss, you may notice that the grief accompanying a loved one’s passing can be especially difficult, and navigating that grieving process can be a tough journey. Know that you are not alone, and many resources are available to help you navigate your journey after suicide loss.
Life after a suicide loss
The days, weeks, and even months after losing a loved one often come with countless questions and even more difficult feelings. Though nothing will provide you with full and immediate relief, we’ve put together some suggestions on where to turn next:
Suicide loss brings grief, but take it a day at a time
The grief from suicide loss can seem overwhelming, especially in the early days, but there is hope.
“Take it a day at a time, or even a minute at a time,” says Judy Bezoski, Chair of Legacy Suicide Survivors Support Group in Ogden, Utah, and a survivor of suicide loss herself. “And try not to avoid the grief. You can go through it now, or you can go through it later, but you will go through it either way.”
It’s not your fault — avoid the guilt
The feeling of guilt is often front-and-center after losing a loved one to suicide, but it is important to remember that their death is not your fault. People often think through a number of “If only’s,” like “If only I had answered their phone call,” or “If only I had done more to help.” The truth is, those questions do more harm than good.
“It shouldn’t be your guilt – you’re not guilty,” Judy says. “The person who took their own life made a decision, and it’s not anybody’s fault. There are so many pieces that you have to put together at first, and guilt gets in the way.”
Join a suicide loss support group, or get counseling
When Judy and her husband Don first found themselves dealing with the suicide loss of a family member 32 years ago, there were no support groups. Instead, they sought professional counseling. Today more help is often available.
Most times, the best thing you can do for yourself in the long term is join a suicide loss support group. For example, the Legacy group in Ogden meets once a month, and the group of survivors helps people grieve in their own way, on their own timeframe.
“Legacy is an open group,” says Judy. “You can come in at any time, take breaks if you need to.”
The important thing is that the group is there for you.
The number of these suicide loss support groups is always increasing. To find the group closest to you, The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has a list of these organizations meeting nationwide here.
If a support group isn’t available near you, or your schedule doesn’t allow it, a local mental health professional will be able to provide you with guidance in dealing with your feelings of loss and grief. You can often find one by contacting your local health department or hospital.
Also, don’t let money be the problem that keeps you from reaching out for help. Many community organizations and behavioral health agencies offer counseling services free of charge or on a sliding scale based on your income. The majority of suicide support groups like Legacy are available at no cost as well.
It will get better
When asked the one piece of advice that would have helped her most when she was first dealing with suicide loss, Judy says, “It will get better. I know you don’t want to hear it, but tuck it away in your head somewhere. It will get better if you work for it.”
Overcoming the kind of deep grief that comes with suicide loss does take work and time, but you can do it. Life is a precious commodity, and living yours while remembering the life of a loved one can be the best way to honor their life. Take time to grieve and heal, but then live your life to the fullest.