Dr. Eileen Callahan, Ph.D.: Suicide Loss

Beyond Surviving

By Iris, Bolton, MA Author of My Son, My Son, A Guide to Healing after Loss, Death or Suicide.
Reprinted with permission.

Here are some suggestions from those who have survived the loss of a loved one by suicide.

  1. Know you can survive. You my not think so, but you can.
  2. Struggle with "why" it happened until you no longer need to know "why" or until you are satisfied with partial answers.
  3. Know you may feel overwhelmed by the intensity of your feelings, but all your feelings are normal.
  4. Anger, guilt, confusion, forgetfulness are common responses. You are not crazy- you are in mourning.
  5. Be aware you may feel appropriate anger at the person, at the world, at God, at yourself. It's okay to express it.
  6. You  may feel guilty for what you think you did or did not do. Guilt can turn into regret through forgiveness.
  7. Having suicidal thoughts is common. It does not mean that you will act on those thoughts.
  8. Remember to take one moment or one day at a time.
  9. Find a good listener with whom to share. Call someone if you need to talk.
  10. Don't be afraid to cry. Tears are healing.
  11. Give yourself time to heal.
  12. Remember, the choice was not yours. No one is the sole influence in another's life.
  13. Expect setbacks. If emotions return like a tidal wave, you may only be experiencing a remnant of grief, an unfinished piece.
  14. Try to put off major decisions.
  15. Give yourself permission to get professional help.
  16. Be aware of the pain of your family and friends.
  17. Be patient with yourself and with others who may not understand.
  18. Set your own limits and learn to say no.
  19. Steer clear of people who want to tell you what or how to feel.
  20. Know that there are suport groups that can be helpful, such as Compassionate Friends. If not, ask a professional to help start one.
  21. Call on your personal faith to help you through.
  22. It is common to experience physical reactions to your grief, such as headaches, loss of appetite, inability to sleep.
  23. The willingness to laugh with others and at yourself is healing.
  24. Wear out your questions, anger, guilt or other feelings until you can let them go. Letting go doesn't mean forgetting.
  25. Know that you will never be the same again, but you can survive and even go beyond just surviving.

Talking to Children About Suicide

Never lie to a child. They are listening and figuring out more than you may realize. You will breed mistrust if they don’t feel you are being honest with them.

Speak in age appropriate terms. Suicide can be explained as death by an illness in the brain, making one’s body stop running, etc.

Model healthy behavior around your children. It is ok to cry in front of them- it will give them to permission to do the same. Tears are healing. Let them know you are missing the lost loved one. Then share a happy memory; this will teach the child you won’t be crying forever.

Emphasize that suicide is never the right answer. There is always help.

This site cannot be used to initiate emergency contact. We cannot respond on-line to crisis situations. If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255 (TALK)

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