Losing someone to suicide is different to any other type of loss.
It is sudden, usually unexpected and often violent. And it is not at the hand of another person, as with murder, but at the hand of the one who has died.
Such a death is shocking and traumatic.
It makes no sense.
It can take years to accept that it makes no sense.
After such a terrible loss your beliefs about life are shattered.
You can understand someone getting sick and dying. You can understand an accident. But understanding how someone can take action to end their life is so hard to comprehend and understand.
If you witnessed the person taking that action, or were the one who found them that is so much harder. That is traumatising. Many people with this experience who come to see me report dreaming about finding their loved one and having flashbacks to finding them.
Anyone who lost a loved one in this way can dream about how their loved one died, or looked, as their imagination fills in areas of no or little information.
If you have lost a loved one this way you may have noticed people are less supportive than if you have lost a loved one differently. Many people don’t know what to do or say. There are also many taboos and fear around suicide.
The source of a lot of this fear is the uncertainty of trying to keep someone from killing themselves. Sometimes families are aware that their family member is suicidal and try desperately to keep them alive. Counsellors of suicidal people also worry about keeping them alive. It is a stressful time.
For those who had no warning their loved one was suicidal there is the sense that they failed to notice their loved one’s state of mind.
The reality is that all the best suicide experts in the world cannot keep someone from suiciding. This is something out of our control.
That is hard to accept.
I frequently debrief families and colleagues of a person who has suicided and all say the same things to me:
• Why didn’t I see it?
• I thought they were sad, why didn’t I talk to them/get help/stop them.
• I thought they were getting better.
• They express shock, disbelief and horror at what has happened.
I always tell them that it is impossible to predict when someone is planning to kill themselves.
You can get people help, and usually if they were appearing to be down someone has arranged help, but it is up to the person to utilise that help.
It is impossible to know just what is going on in another person’s mind. The idea of someone being so down that death seems a viable option is horrifying. You can ask a person if they are feeling suicidal and they may honestly answer you. They may not.
You are not to blame for the choices your loved one has made.
You want to know why they did it. You will probably never know. You will spend the rest of your life wondering, but you will never know.
Somewhere in all this confusion and turmoil you will find strengths to survive this. Do seek help, one of the biggest risk factors for suicide is being bereaved by suicide. See seeking counselling help as one of the strengths you possess.
The 4 strategies I use when working with you, and ones you can learn to use on your own later, are:
This involves finding a imaginary space where you can feel safe. This is where you can go when things seem overwhelming.
People imagine all manner of spaces where they feel safe. Often they are spaces where the person has felt safe in the past. Do you have a space where you have felt safe and could utilise now?
Grounding is connecting to the earth. Feeling yourself supported and energised by the energy of the earth. Feeling the safety of your connection to the earth.
I may teach you exercises to ground yourself.
Being aware of your thoughts and feelings is important. Part of mindfulness is noticing these feelings and thoughts, naming them, and learning to only engage with them when you are able to.
This allows you to work through the difficult and painful process of grieving. It allows you to choose the times when you feel ready to deal with this pain. It will take time, and you will not always be able to control this, but over time learning mindfulness will help you take control of your life and learn to live with your loss.
With mindfulness, you will be able to learn to be with your difficult thoughts and emotions in a controlled way that allows you to process them.
- Window of Tolerance
The Window of Tolerance is where you can feel in control of your emotions and actions and are able to cope with things that happen to you.
Being bereaved, especially by suicide, is going to throw you outside your Window of Tolerance a lot. Any time you find yourself crying uncontrollably. Any time you feel you can’t cope with going to work, leaving the house, going home, and so on, you are moving outside your Window of Tolerance.
In time you do move back into that Window space. Feeling so out of control is not permanent. It is just an aspect of bereavement. Understanding this is only temporary is helpful.
It is also possible for you to learn how to get back into that Window space as you grieve.
If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with learning to live with the suicide loss of your loved one, please contact me on 0409396608 or firstname.lastname@example.org
If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with interesting information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz