When a person chooses to take their own life, it often leaves family, friends and other loved ones with many questions and very complex emotions.
Grief author and educator Dr. John Canine offers the following information to help you during this difficult time:
Suicide is the most difficult bereavement crisis for any family to face and resolve in an effective manner. There are no easy answers when it comes to understanding why someone would take their own life. Regardless of what we may or may not know about what causes the act of suicide or how we can try to prevent it, statistics show that over 750,000 people each year are left to grieve the completed suicide of a family member or loved one.
Dr. William Worden, researcher and author, and former professor at Harvard University, states, “Of all the specific feelings suicide survivors experience, one of the predominant feelings is shame. In our society, there is a stigma associated with suicide. The survivors are the ones who have to suffer the shame after a family member takes his or her own life and their sense of shame can be influenced by the negative reaction of others to them.” Some survivors are so shameful they can’t even say the word suicide.
There are other feelings you may experience associated with the grief of a family member or loved one who has committed suicide:
- Guilt. There is the feeling I should have noticed something or I should have been able to do something. Somehow I should have prevented this from happening.
- Fear. This is a common response after a suicide. The fear usually centers around the survivors own self-destructive impulses. The thought, “If he did it, maybe I could too,” becomes quite troubling. Also there is the threat of what we do not know, which creates great fear.
- Blame. Finding someone to blame can be an attempt to affirm control and to find a sense of meaning in a difficult situation. Some survivors will blame themselves to the point of punishing themselves.
- Anger. Why did he do this to me? Why would she put me through this?
- Low self-esteem. Many survivors interpret the suicide as rejection of the survivors, leaving them with the feeling that they are not worth anything.
Nevertheless, there are at least two things that you, as a suicide survivor, should think about:
- You should not let the act of suicide rob yourself of the many wonderful memories you had with your loved one. The act of suicide takes a moment. In many cases your loved one may have lived many years. Remember the many years.
Sometimes a person will commit suicide for altruistic reasons, which means they did it because of a greater concern or higher purpose. For example, some years ago, I counseled a woman whose husband was in the advanced stages of lung cancer. They had visited with the oncologist and found out what to expect in the final weeks of his life. Walking out of the doctor’s office the husband said to his wife, “I don’t want to put you through this.” That night, while she was sleeping, he ended his life with a gunshot. The note he left behind simply said, “I love you too much.” Although his wife grieved terribly, she found some comfort in his note.
- Researchers suggest that if a person really wants to commit suicide, there is not much that can be done. Many survivors report that, looking back, they realized when their loved one made the decision to commit suicide their mood became more elevated. Possibly, your loved one’s decision to end his or her life brought them relief to an unsettled mind and a troubled spirit. And although we absolutely disagree with the choice of suicide, as survivors we must accept it was the loved one’s choice to bring peace of mind.
To learn more about Dr. Canine’s work, go to: www.maximumlivingconsult.com
Always remember, you are not alone. There are others who understand and are ready to help. The grief resources available to you will vary by community. Your NFDA funeral director is a great place to start to learn about support available in your area.