The 23rd November 2019 is a significant day for survivors of suicide, International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day, a day where survivors of suicide join together for support and healing.
Suicide is something that sadly, most of us will experience throughout our lives. Losing someone to Suicide is a difficult journey and leaves us with questions of why, how, what could I have done, why didn’t they reach out, and many more. As heartbreaking as these questions can be, for most of us, we will never really receive the answers that we want or need.
If Grief After Suicide The Same As Other Journey’s Of Grief?
Bereavement following suicide is complicated. In addition to the usual feelings of grief, survivors of suicide are met with feelings of shock, anger, social isolation and guilt. Suicide is often sudden and unexpected and for survivors of suicide, it is traumatic and devastating.
Whilst the emotional journey has similarities, the complexity of grief following suicide can be difficult to navigate.
How Will I Cope?
Your journey will be unique to you, however you will have a number of shared experiences with other survivors. Recognise that you are a survivor and that in time, you will be ok.
A New Normal
Survivors often struggle to feel ‘normal’ again after the loss of a loved one. This is something that takes some time to recognise. The normal that you knew no longer exists, your normal has changed. That can be stressful, it is most definitely devastating, and it is a significant adjustment.
When we lose a loved one, not only to suicide, our normal changes. Before their death our normal included them in a variety of ways and we acknowledge their presence as being part of our normal. So when we lose a loved one, we lose our normal. Our normal begins to change and evolve and in time, it will become our new normal.
It is important to not look for your normal, but to find your new normal. Remember the things that brought you joy and happiness and incorporate them into your daily life. Stay active and look after yourself.
Being kind to yourself is so important. Try to eat and sleep well, Spend time with people that are nurturing and supportive and make time for yourself as well. Be prepared with a plan and coping strategy for significant days, birthdays, anniversaries, festive seasons.
Remember the positive parts of your loved ones life. You don’t have to hide your loved one away, use their photos, memories, music and small rituals to remind you of the positive memories from their life. They have a legacy that will always live on and it includes many things other than how they left this life.
How Can I Best Support A Survivor?
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to supporting a survivor of suicide. But there are some things that you can do to help them through their journey and to make sure that they are ok. Here are just a few ways you can support a survivor of suicide.
Language is a powerful thing, our words have the ability to help and to hinder, so being mindful of the language you use is an important part of supporting a survivor.
First things first, remove the word “Committed” from your vocabulary. People don’t die by ‘committing’ suicide, they die ‘from’ suicide. Just as someone would die from cancer or heart disease. Removing this word from your vocabulary is a massive step in helping survivors remove the stigma, negativity, shame and guilt that comes with losing a loved one to suicide.
Anger is a very normal part of the grieving process for a survivor of suicide. Allowing them the freedom (freedom from judgement, freedom from opinion, freedom from speculation) to express this anger, is another way to support them through their journey. Again, it is essential that you are conscious of the language you use.
Survivors of suicide experience social isolation, mostly because their friend and family circles aren’t quite sure of the best way to support them through their loss. The most effective thing you can do for a survivor, is Be There. Let them know that they aren’t alone, they have your love and support and that they can reach out to you if they need to talk, or just need some company.
In saying that, most survivors won’t reach out. So the best thing you can do is Reach In. Check on them regularly, call, visit, chat, spend time with them so they know they aren’t alone. Don’t wait for a survivor to reach out or ask for support, most of the time that won’t happen. Be proactive in the way you offer support.
It can be easy for survivors to become isolated and wrapped up in their grief, and whilst this is ok for a very short time, it is not helpful as a long term strategy to cope with losing a loved one.
You can support a survivor by encouraging them to participate. Participation can be in just about anything, although finding activities that used to bring them joy and happiness, is a great place to start. Help them to remember that it is ok to keep living, that it is ok to smile and to laugh, help them to let go of guilt that prevents them from feeling entitled to living their life.
Activity not only gives social connection but being active also releases endorphins that help us to feel better. Company does the same thing, so just being together can be a powerful way to support a survivor.
Support for Survivors
StandBy Support After Suicide, is now recognised as Australia’s leading suicide postvention program dedicated to assisting people and communities impacted by suicide.
- They provide free face-to-face and telephone support at a time and place that is best for you
- The service is accessible 24/7, providing direct and coordinated support from local services and groups in your area
- They offer expertise, understanding and resources for your particular situation
- Follow up contact is continued for up to 1 year to ensure you are not alone and receive any ongoing support you may need
To contact Standby or to find your closest office, please click here
Suicide is a significant community issue and we lose far too many people to suicide for a developed nation. You can help by becoming involved to raise awareness for suicide prevention and post-vention, support survivors, help to remove the stigma associated with suicide, and be a reliable and supportive family member and friend to those that need you.
Our life is not defined by its beginning, nor is it defined by its end. It is defined by all of the memories we leave with those that we love and who love us.
If you are currently having suicidal thoughts, please seek immediate assistance by calling Lifeline on 13 11 14. If you or someone you are with is in need of immediate support please call an ambulance or Police on 000.