When someone takes their own life we may feel an intense range of emotions. It is a sudden, usually unexpected event which is traumatic and may even be violent. These feelings can include anger, shame, blame, guilt, betrayal, fear and intense sadness.
Many questions may haunt us such as “Why did they do it?”, “Could I have done something to prevent it?” and maybe “Why didn’t they let me help them?”. It is an important part of the grieving process to be able to fully explore these questions in depth along with any thoughts and feelings which are distressing and occupying a lot of our head space and time.
Death by suicide makes a lot of people very uneasy and they may not know the right way to react to someone bereaved in this way. Suicide is still a stigma in society and this can be an obstacle for people to receive and give support therefore leading to isolation for those bereaved by suicide.
Bereavement by suicide can be a frightening, destabilising and life changing experience. There may be investigations and an intrusion of privacy, there may be family conflicts and tensions as family members will have their own unique ways to deal with their grief reactions. Children may have a lot of questions if they are bereaved by suicide, they may wonder why their parent chose to leave them for example.
There may be symptoms of post-traumatic stress after a suicide and nightmares and flashbacks may occur. Sometimes our own imaginations are worse than the actual reality.
Taking care of ourselves is extremely important at a time when we may feel we have lost everything. Only we as individuals know what helps and comforts us in times of stress and crisis. Seeking out those who will listen non- judgementally and give us the time to just be ourselves in all our emotional torment can be helpful.
Talking to a bereavement counsellor, someone other than family or friends, gives us a safe space in which to explore and develop coping strategies; we can identify our own strengths and resilience in order to cope with the realisation that we will have changed as a person and our life will not ever be the same again.