Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Coping with Suicide Loss

Coping with Suicide Loss - Complex Healing Process

A. Beyond Surviving

No two people will grieve in the same way. Some will find support groups helpful; others may rely on friends' support. Some may turn to books; others may go to therapy. Some may take weeks to get back to "normal life"; others may find that life as they remember it no longer exists and they need to redefine themselves. Our response to the aftermath of suicide is shaped by a number of things - past experiences with death and loss, other current life stressors, our mental health, our family cultural traditions, our relationship with the deceased (e.g., strength of bond, presence of conflict, etc.), the circumstances surrounding the death, our support system, and our personality.

People feel a range of emotions in the aftermath of suicide - not everyone will go through all of these experiences and the length of each may differ, but these are common emotional reactions that often come like a tidal wave unexpectedly and repeatedly.

· Guilt and self-blame for not being able to prevent the suicide
· Anger at the person who died, at the world, at God, at yourself
· Experiencing suicidal thoughts yourself
· Depression and incredible sadness triggered by anything from major life milestones to a song on the radio

During the healing process, it is important to be patient with yourself and take each day as it comes. Surround yourself with caring people who do not try to fix things, but just listen without judgment. Set limits and postpone any major decisions if you can during this time. Basic self-care - eating, sleeping, hydration - are very important to feeling more stable and better able to handle the intense emotions. Avoid alcohol abuse and other mood altering substances - while they may alleviate the pain in the short-run, they tend to exacerbate depression and pain in the long run.

B. Coping with Holidays, Anniversaries and Birthdays: New Traditions and Healing Rituals

With an empty chair around the table, important celebrations can be particularly hard for suicide survivors. Before the holiday arrives, talk with the family about the expectations and consider creating some new traditions. For some, it may be better to be all together while others might prefer to be by themselves. Usually the anticipation of the holiday is worse than the actual day. There is not a right way to approach these days - find a way that works for you.

The death anniversary can also be a difficult time for survivors. Many find comfort in participating in some form of healing ritual of remembrance to honor the life of the loved one. Rituals serve many purposes for the suicide survivors. They make changes manageable and mark transitions. Rituals communicate values and beliefs while providing containment for strong emotions. The power of rituals comes from the fact that they often provoke deep emotional experiences that hold a level of meaning that words cannot capture. These practices may be done alone or with others: · Plant a memorial garden or tree. · Dove release or balloon release. · Candle lighting ceremony. · Write a poem or letter and release it to the universe by burning it.

For more information on surviving after suicide please visit The Carson J Spencer Foundation Website.

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