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Grieving with the loss of a loved one to suicide
I thought we would talk about this one first. It can be probably the most challenging of situations because if it hasn’t happened in our own life, we might feel inadequate in what to say, or how to relate at the deepest level of their distress. Yes, we care and hurt with them, but knowing what’s correct in words and actions or can be overwhelming.
Instead of avoiding them, or making the pain worse with uninformed conversations, let’s learn how to better help and serve those who find them self in this tragic situation.
I found this crucial information from Support After Suicide and Helping a Friend Who Has Lost a Loved One to Suicide
WHAT NOT TO SAY
- try not to say ‘committed’ suicide. This harks back to a time when suicide was a crime and some bereaved people find it distressing. You can say died by suicide, suicide, took their life
- do not use clichés and platitudes to try and comfort by saying things like ‘you’re so strong’, ‘time will heal’, ‘he’s at peace now’, ‘you have other children’, ‘you’ll get married again’ or ‘I know how you feel.’ While well-intentioned, they rarely comfort and can leave the bereaved person feeling misunderstood and more isolated
- don’t avoid the subject of suicide. This can create a barrier making it hard for them to discuss personal issues later
- avoid judgments about the person who died by suicide such as saying they were selfish, cowardly or weak, or even brave or strong. People need to come to come to their own understanding of the person and what has happened
- avoid simplistic explanations for the suicide. Suicide is very complex and there are usually many contributing factors
- “I know how you feel.” We can never know how another may feel. Instead, it may be more helpful to ask your friend how he or she feels.
- “Look at what you have to be thankful for.” Your friend knows s/he has things to be thankful for, but part of grieving is being able to experience the feelings of sadness and loss.
- “They are in a better place now.” Your friend may or may not share your religious beliefs. It’s best to keep your personal spiritual beliefs to yourself unless asked.
- “This is behind you; it’s time to get on with your life.” Moving on is easier said than done. Grief has a mind of its own and works at its own pace. Giving room to grieve is important in the recovery process.
- Saying, “You should…” or “You will…” Advice-giving, especially when unsolicited, is rarely helpful. Instead, you could begin your comments with: “Have you thought about…” or “You might…”
WHAT TO SAY
- be truthful, honest and aware of your limitations: acknowledge if you don’t understand or know how to react to what they are going through
- say the name of the person who has died and talk about them. Not saying their name can leave the bereaved feeling as though the one who died is being forgotten or dismissed
- be aware of those who are grieving who may be forgotten, for example, children, grandparents, friends
- Accept and acknowledge all feelings. Let the grieving person know that it’s OK to cry in front of you, to become angry, or to break down. Don’t try to reason with someone over how s/he should or shouldn’t feel. Your friend should feel free to express feelings knowing that you are willing to listen without judgment, argument, or criticism.
- Be willing to sit in silence. It’s not your job to get your friend to start talking. Instead, be willing to be present and show you are ready to listen when s/he is ready to speak. If you can’t think of something to say, you can show your support through eye contact, a squeeze of the hand, or a reassuring hug.
- Let your friend talk about the suicide. Your friend may need to tell the story over and over again, sometimes in great detail. Be patient. Repeating the story is a way of processing and accepting the death. With each retelling, the pain lessens.
- Offer comfort without minimizing the loss. Let your friend know that what he or she is feeling is OK. If you’ve gone through a similar loss, share your own experience, if you think it would help. However, don’t give unsolicited advice, claim to “know” what the person is feeling, or compare your grief to his or hers.
There are many resources for Suicide Prevention, as well as support for those left behind at Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Our good neighbors lost a son this way and recently it was the date of his 21st birthday.
In our community there is an 801 ROCKS UT FB group where they paint rocks and leave them in random places for people to find, which is posted when they are left, and then by those who find them. From the FB page: are a community of people who are on the front lines of a movement to spread happiness and joy to people world wide one #randomrockofkindness at a time.
This group painted special ROCKS and left them at the grave site before my friends Cori and Mike arrived the morning of Tyler’s birthday date so they would know they and their family were being thought of on that emotional day.
Stan and I wanted to do something. However, with tending the baby grand daughter and a very busy day ahead of me, I prayed about what to do, and what I could manage. The thought came to get a birthday cake! I called our local bakery and the decorator made this awesome cake for me. Cori loved it, and I believe the family did too.
You can see they received another cake which was definitely made with love.
Another neighbor, Christan, was incredibly thoughtful and left flowers on their doorstep on the anniversary date of Tyler’s suicide. Cori said that meant the world to her.
This is a very difficult time for individuals and families. They need our love and support just as at any other time of loss. Make sure to keep reaching out for weeks, months and long after the event, the pain doesn’t end and the need for friendship can increase with the passing of time.
To continue with the post, click How Can I Help When Someone Is Sick And Show I Care?