Where Do I Begin?
Why did this happen? After losing someone to suicide, you may find yourself asking over and over again, “Why?” Suicide is complicated, but from research we know a lot about it.
More than 90% of people who die by suicide have an underlying mental disorder at the time of their death. Many times, that disorder was never identified. The disorders most often associated with suicide are depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. Substance abuse, either on its own or in combination with another mental disorder, can also be a factor when someone takes their own life. These disorders can cause terrible suffering. They can affect a person’s ability to think clearly and to make decisions. They can interfere with seeking help, continuing treatment, or taking prescribed medicines.
An underlying mental disorder alone is not usually enough. Most people who kill themselves experienced a combination of deep psychological pain, desperate hopelessness and challenging life events.
We know that suicide is the tragic outcome of a serious underlying illness combined with a complicated mix of individual circumstances. It is not a sign of moral weakness. It does not reveal a character flaw. It is not a sign of irresponsibility, or a hostile act. It should not be a source of shame.
Consider reading the above paragraph over and over to help you make sense of the suicide loss and begin your healing journey.
Is It Normal to Feel This Way?
If you’ve lost someone to suicide, you may feel . . .
• alone, as though no one understands what you’re going through.
• shocked, even if you knew your loved one was at risk. You may find yourself replaying their last days over and over, searching for clues.
• responsible, wondering whether there was something you missed, or something you could have said or done, or wished you hadn’t said or done.
• angry, at whoever you believe is to blame: the doctor, therapist, spouse, boss, or principal, for example.
• abandoned by the person who died.
• ashamed and worried about whether to tell people the truth, for fear of being judged.
• guilty for laughing, having fun, or beginning to enjoy life again.
Don’t worry. It is normal to have some, all, or none of these feelings as you cope with suicide loss.
If you have lost a loved one to suicide, you may find it helpful to connect with others who have also experienced a suicide loss. It can be a relief to talk openly about suicide with people who share a similar experience. Groups provide a “safe place” where those who have been touched by suicide loss can share their thoughts and feelings, and offer one another support.
What to Expect
It is natural to feel unsure about going to your first support group meeting. It may take a few meetings before you feel comfortable. Some people attend a support group almost immediately after their loss, while others wait for years. Do what you feel is best for you. Some survivors attend regularly for a year or two, and then continue to go only occasionally.
Please visit the AFSP website for more information.