Hope and Healing After Loss by Suicide
Staff Therapist Sarah Bauer, MS, MFT specializes in helping clients who are experiencing domestic violence, trauma, grief and loss, depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. Sarah uses a systemic approach to help people reach their goals and reconnect with the people in their lives. In this blog post, Sarah offers hope and healing for people whose lives have been affected by suicide.
Suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States, yet we rarely talk about it. The recent losses of two celebrities by suicide have thrust the subject into the forefront of national conversation. As per the National Institute of Mental Health, suicide is the tenth leading cause of death overall, and the second leading cause of death for ages 10-34.
Suicide does not just affect one individual; it can impact many, as survivors are left to determine the unfortunate and often unanswered question “what happened?” Those who are affected by suicide are not alone, and the grief felt afterwards can be overwhelming. As someone who works with individuals surrounding suicidality, here is my advice for those who have been affected by this:
It is not your fault
This statement, although one may hear it from others, is one that needs to “sink in”. Individuals who are affected by suicide may carry the belief that they may have said or did something to cause this, and this is not the case. The unfortunate answer is that you may never know the cause and that your questions may not be answered. It is important to learn to accept that you may never receive the answers you are seeking.
Talk about it
The stigmas surrounding suicide are tremendous, and this can create an especially challenging situation for survivors to talk about it. When talking about your loved one’s death, consider what information you want to disclose. Remember that you do not have to disclose anything that you do not want to, including the reason that they passed away. Seek support from others that you trust, including support groups and mental health professionals. Be patient with others and yourself. People move through the grieving process at different rates, and this is okay.
Take care of yourself
Practicing self-care is important for everyone, but it is especially important during this time. Self-care will also look different for everyone, so it is important to participate in whatever self-care feels right to you. This may be taking a bike ride, or watching a sunrise. It is okay to be angry, okay to laugh, and okay to cry – give yourself permission to feel. Grief is not “one size fits all;” everyone grieves differently. Grief is not something you can “get over”, but through self-care and support, you can find ways to begin to heal.
Most importantly, if you are having suicidal thoughts or contemplating suicide, as there is an increased risk for individuals who have experienced a loss due to suicide, please contact a crisis center or go to your nearest emergency room. There is hope.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)