Sadly, however, when someone commits suicide, it may become the only thing remembered about that person.A survivor, in this context, is a person who has been bereaved by the suicide of a loved or much cared about, person. Apart from the initial grief and horror that the survivors experience, everyone will deal with this situation differently but the following reactions to either a suicide attempt or a completed act, are common:
- Denial – it must have been an accident, they would never have done this
- Avoidance – I will pretend this never happened and not talk about it
- Anger – how could they do this to me
- Abandonment – why have they left me behind
- Shame – what will others think
- Guilt – what could I have done to stop this happening/ what did I do wrong
- Blame – who was at fault, someone must be accountable
- Suicidal thoughts – how can I live without them
The taking of one’s own life can seem like an incomprehensible act and to deal with the feelings that arise for survivors, an understanding of how the suicidal person perceives their world, can be helpful.
Friends and family of a person who has suicided are often unable to get past the guilt and denial to understand that their loved one felt the way that they may have described in their farewell note, at that time, not necessarily all of that time. Most suicidal people develop ‘tunnel vision’ where they become unable to see another way of dealing with their overwhelming pain. They may also have seen themselves as failures in a hopeless situation wherein they are reluctant to ask for help. Often it can be helpful for the survivors to seek out photos and writing from earlier happier times and to focus on these times when remembering.
However, it is impossible to predict exactly how a death by suicide will affect the survivors. The relationship with the person will have a strong bearing upon the depth of their grief. Sadly, some survivors never recover. Others become advocates of suicide awareness and prevention or strongly militant against the taboos which surround suicide.
Coping Strategies for Survivors:
- Have patience with yourself and others when you can’t understand why
- Survive, one day at a time and accept that your pain will one day be bearable
- Find people to listen to you, rather than tell you how you should be feeling
- Cry, it is a healing process
- All your feelings of guilt, confusion, denial etc are normal
- Remember that you are NOT to blame. The choice to die was not yours and you are NOT responsible for another person’s actions
- Having suicidal thoughts yourself, is common but thoughts do not have to be acted upon
- Seek out help from friends and professionals whenever you need it
- Acknowledge that you may never know the reason why but work towards acceptance
- Your loss will eventually lead to a deeper compassion and understanding and you may be able to comfort other survivors, thus healing yourself
As survivors move through the healing process, they will take pleasure in remembering their loved person lost to suicide, as more than a ‘label’ but as the complete human being that they were, with all their flaws, hopes and achievements; a celebration of their life, not just a remembrance of the way that they died.
Emergency numbers for those at risk
- Lifeline 131114
- Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800