I never dreamed of writing this post. I never wanted to have experience in grieving a suicide. But, unfortunately, on April 3, 2012, I was inducted into the "suicide survivor club". I wish I could turn in my membership card in exchange for my best friend. I can't, so I thought I would use my experience over the last three months to hopefully help others.
Induction into the "suicide survivor club" was the most traumatic and heartbreaking experience of my life. The pain, at times, is unbearable. Initially, I prayed for my heart to continue to beat. I didn't want to die, but thought my heart could not withstand the pain. Through the help of counselors, fellow survivors, and a couple good resources, I have learned that the journey to healing will be long but healing will come. Grieving a suicide is different than grieving a typical death. Accompanied with the loss, is shock, trauma and questions that will never have answers on this earth. I have also learned that I am not alone in this journey. I realize I have readers outside my circle of friends and family, so I wanted to use this blog post to share some of the resources that have been helpful during this difficult time.
Besides prayer and faith that God will bring me through this, a pivotal resource is a book called "Grieving a Suicide by Albert Hsu. Hsu is a suicide survivor and a Christian. He writes from his personal experience, stressing that God is not only with you, but also with your loved one in heaven. I found myself flipping through the pages and identifying with nearly every one!
A few of my favorite passages:
"Because death has struck so close to home, life itself seems uncertain. We don't know if we can go on from day to day. We wonder if we will be consumed by the same despair that claimed our loved one. At the very least, we know that our life will never be the same. [We will go on living] as people who see the world very differently" (Hsu, 10).
"Suicide carries in its aftermath a level of confusion and devastation that is, for the most part, beyond description". (Hsu, 23)
But just when it seems bleak, there is hope.
"God doesn't only absorb the pain of grief and loss; he makes a way through it....If God knows suffering and we know suffering, then we can know God even in the midst of our suffering....God's pledge is not that suffering will never afflict us, but that it will never separate us from His love" (Hsu, 130).
Hsu also emphasizes that living your life honors your loved one. This sounds easier said than done amidst mourning, but another helpful resource is www.fiercegoodbye.com. This website discusses suicide from a Christian perspective and details what you might experience during the grief process. It also offers suggestions for going beyond surviving. Whether reading this book or perusing this website, you could probably overhear me saying, "That's me!" over and over.
If you are a friend of a survivor and are looking for ways to help them, here are some things that have been helpful and hurtful so far in this process.
Helpful to hear:
- "I don't know what you are going through, but I am here with you."
- "Just go with whatever emotion you are feeling and let it pass through.": Don't stifle your anger, tears, fears or even laughter.
- "Take your time."
- "I love you": It is so important to hear these three words. Sometimes it feels like your loved one abandoned you and didn't love you (even though that's typically not the case). Hearing those words is confirmation that you do matter.
- Let the survivor talk about the loss. To you, it will probably feel like they are talking in circles. Chances are, that's true, but the loss consumes their thoughts. It takes so much energy to think of something else to talk about.
Hurtful to hear:
- "You'll get over this." Survivors learn to live with the loss, but will never "get over" the fact that their loved one took their own life.
- "Move on.": This may be the most hurtful. We are well aware that life goes on and we will eventually not feel as bad as we do at this point, but it's a slow process.
- "This was all a part of God's plan" or "He needed another angel in heaven.": God never wants someone to take their own life.
- Asking a lot of questions or posing possible reasons for the suicide when you were not close to the loved one: Suicide survivors have tons of questions swirling around in their heads. More just feel incredibly overwhelming and almost suffocating.
To date, it has been a little over 3 months since I lost Mike. As my counselor says, "Three months is only the first trimester of a pregnancy! You have a long way to go, baby!" I continue to work through this grief and will join a suicide support group. The suggestions I offer here have been helpful to me. My hope is that they aid someone else. However, I pray that you never have to use them.
If you suffer from depression, please get help. There is hope for you. If you know someone who suffers from depression, speak up and urge them to get the help they need and deserve. Risk your friendship to save a life. There needn't be anymore members in the "suicide survivor club"!