The Mother Load

Picking up the pieces

Following on from my post about International Suicide Survivors Day I came across some tips online that I thought I’d share with you. I’m not advocating that all these will work for every individual but I always find checklists are good when your mind isn’t clear on what the next steps should be beyond waking up in the morning.

“…no matter who the victim is, their loved ones may also feel like victims. Suicide survivors feel sad, angry, betrayed, confused, and shocked. The trauma of suicide may break a family apart.”

– Nadine J. Kaslow, PhD, professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta.

While suicide survivors navigate through typical symptoms of depression (hopelessness, loss of appetite, sleeping problems) they also have to deal with the guilt, shame, and stigma of suicide.

Steps to Recovery for Suicide Survivors

If someone close to you recently committed suicide, you may be unsure where to go next and how to start recovering.

“There is no right way to recover from the suicidal death of a loved one. It is a process that is different for different people,” says Dr. Kaslow. “The first year is the hardest, and the recovery is longer and harder than with other types of death that are not as traumatic.”

The suicide survivor’s journey to recovery may include:

  • Individual therapy. The therapy needs to be supportive and needs to take into consideration all of your religious and cultural beliefs surrounding suicide. “Suicide victims must be allowed to work through their anger,” says Kaslow. If the victim had children, they may need help coping with the feeling of abandonment.
  • Family therapy. Family members will need to learn coping skills and get help to deal with the change in family structure, says Kaslow. Families can come together to decide how they will handle difficult periods such as anniversaries and birthdays.
  • Creating a suicide story. “It is important for the family to create a story that makes sense out of a loved one’s death. This may start with the acceptance that everyone has an existential choice over their own life,” says Kaslow.
  • Support groups. For many suicide survivors, a support group may offer a place where they can share their feelings with others who truly understand the journey. This sharing of feelings, hope, and recovery can be a powerful tool on the road to acceptance.

“Over time, and with help, most suicide survivors are able to accept that they do not have to shoulder the blame for a loved one’s suicide.”

Medications are not usually needed unless a person has definite symptoms of clinical depression,” notes Kaslow. Emotions such as guilt, anger, and shock will fade over time, but there is no set timeline or easy way to cope with the trauma of suicidal death.

On a side note; when I did a Google search on this topic I found the following:

“surviving the loss of a loved one” – 74.7m articles

“surviving suicide” – 15.6m articles

“surviving suicide tips” – 2m articles

Of course, I’m no genius at this search string thing but I was just interested to note that the stigma of death by suicide is greater than I imagined.

This year International Suicide Survivors Day falls on Saturday, 17 November.

Sadag runs South Africa’s only toll-free suicide crisis line – 0800 567 567 – open seven days a week from 8am to 8pm.

8 thoughts on “Picking up the pieces

  1. Gina

    My mother and I have been to a place called Compassionate Friends. They are specifically a support network for parents that have lost children and by extension for siblings.

    I cant begin to tell you what a help they have been, almost 2 years later my mother still goes once a month to a group.

    What makes them so special is that the therapists and councillors have all lost children and will only council someone that has lost a child the same way they did.

    1. Mother

      Hi Gina, Nikki Twomey (one of the survivors whose story is also covered on this blog) also highly recommends Compassionate Friends. She listed them as just 1 of two resources when her youngest brother committed suicide. Thanks for sharing.

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