*TRIGGER WARNING: This blog contains content around suicide, grief, and loss*
If you’re here, it may be because you’ve experienced the loss of someone to suicide; perhaps you’re here to learn how to support someone who is struggling in your life. Or, maybe you are here by happenstance. In any case, you matter. You are invaluable, and well, I am glad you’re here. Losing someone to suicide can be devastating. The pain can feel indescribable. Unbelievable, almost. It can feel impossible to manage, it can feel impossible to even think of moving on.
But (and this is the hopeful kind of but) there are ways to navigate the shock, the pain, the confusion, the anger, the despair. There are ways to let healing in when it comes, and it will come. Considering the loss of a loved one, or anyone in your life is difficult. Though, losing someone to suicide adds thick layers of confusion and pain. The sadness is different. It’s complicated grief, glossed with shock and disbelief. Mourning the loss of someone in your life to suicide can feel like you’re fighting with reality, coming to terms with death, and the nature of their death–this can feel absolutely impossible.
Managing the grief.
I’ll pause here for a moment to say, that the words in this small piece of writing do not feel like enough. They don’t feel worthy of the feeling I (and so many of us) have felt, sometimes they don’t even feel right to think, and that’s the nature of this kind of pain. Nothing feels big enough to hold it. Nothing feels strong enough to carry it.
Though, the tiny glimpses of hope here say: a combination of small steps can sustain us, day by day, moment by moment. That will have to be enough for now. The impossible and the possible can co-exist here. As difficult as it may seem, there are things we can consider to help us come to terms with loss, and perhaps even come to a place of acceptance in order to continue on.
Here are just a few reminders that have helped me.
1. Some (most) things are beyond our reach and control.
We may feel we have control over people and things in our life, that we truly do not. It is normal to experience feelings of guilt wrapped up in your grief, and if you’re anything like me (and so many others), perhaps you’ve contemplated all the ways you could have done more to prevent their passing. Looking for clues, looking for answers, trying to reconcile the dissonance of wanting to place blame, feeling abandoned, the shock and the anger, but most of all the pain. This is human to feel, but important to fight.
It’s important to remember that the guilt or the blame you are carrying is not yours (or anyone's) to carry. We have far less power over others than we like to believe, and though our actions have tremendous impact, it is important to remember that the only blame that can be placed is on the pain and mental health challenge your person was experiencing that brought them to that place.
2. Allow yourself to feel your feelings.
Our bodies hold feelings of pain far more than we realize. You may think it’s healthier (or easier) to keep it together, or you might convince yourself it’s better to avoid expressing all the things you may be feeling right now. Maybe you don’t want to burden the people around you. Maybe feeling exhausts you. Maybe you feel you’re feeling too much at once. Maybe it’s all of the above.
But our feelings are strong, and resilient. They will exist whether we want them to or not. Right there. The more we avoid these feelings, the deeper they can seem to intrude. If you let in even your most frightening emotions, they will hurt for a while, and then they will slowly go. They will gradually walk away.
I know it’s hard to feel. It is tremendously difficult to process. But there is hope that we will come out on the other side lighter, at the very least.
3. Be patient and gentle with yourself. Remember: healing will not be linear.
We all grieve in our own ways, at our own pace. Some days you will feel like you had to hold it all together. You’ll get up early, you’ll eat a hearty breakfast, you may even get a workout in. You’ll feel okay, maybe even good. But as many of us who have experienced grief know, that morning may turn into a dark afternoon, and an even darker night. The ups, and the downs – they come and they go. Sometimes quickly and without warning. It can feel unmanageably heavy.T
hen the pain will pass, and you may be okay again. Your healing will always be an ebb and flow, and that is OK. One baby step at a time still takes us forward.
4. Keep a journal on you, and use it.
Talking about your pain can feel impossible. Maybe it is too much right now. So, when you feel a burst of difficult thoughts come to mind, try to write them down. Sentences don’t need to be cohesive; the sentences don’t need to make sense; you don’t need to get anything right. No one needs to ever see your words but you.It is important to lighten the load, and release the thoughts swirling in your head. For me, though it felt tremendously painful to do, writing a letter to my person, was, and continues to be, healing.
5. Do the small things to take care of yourself.
You may be experiencing a tremendous amount of pain right now. The trauma of losing someone to suicide is a weight on your physical, emotional, and mental health. There are small things we can do to ensure we’re keeping our health afloat.
Try to maintain a consistent sleep schedule (these city rain sounds help me with the insomnia), ask a trusted friend to check-in to make sure you’re eating regularly, take a meditative walk outside when you can, and join a support group online. These things are small, but even the small can be big things sometimes.
6. Honour your person’s life.
The person you may have lost is so much more than their suicide. Try to honour and celebrate the moments of joy, the chapters of celebration, and the stories that made them who they were. Sharing these moments with others can feel heavy, but having that support around you can be life-changing.
Creating a memorial for your loved one, in the form of a physical site, a photobook, donation in their name, or something as small as lighting a candle next to your bedside, can help bring about healing.
Cherishing the people in my life who have died by suicide in these ways have been some of the most worthwhile steps in my healing journey. Maybe it can be the same for you.
7. And finally, what we all probably (need to) hear the most: you are not alone.
You are here, you are worthy of love. Your healing is worth fighting for. Seek out family and friends who are supportive of you. Confide in people you trust, without the worry of being a burden.
If you continue to struggle, consider talking to a professional who understands what you’re experiencing (this decision was it for me). Speaking to someone who can empathize and understand the pain you are feeling, and the weight you are carrying, is powerful, and has the capacity to make you feel less isolated. This way, recovery was (and still very much is) possible for me.
Before you go.
Life may never be the same for us. But it can have chapters of joy, meaning, and peace again. You have come this far, and you will continue. You may even experience moments where your survival and perseverance bring about the encourage for someone else to do the same. The pain of loss is immense and complicated, but dear reader: your story doesn’t end here.