At No Fallen Heroes we are dedicated to the reduction and elimination of veterans suicide. We are also concerned with those we term suicide survivors. These are family and friends who are coping with the suicide of a loved one. Loss of a loved one is always difficult but with loss of a loved one by their own hand grieving is never easy. We find that by having the right information that one can more easily cope with the death of a loved one by suicide and move on to a healthy life.
It’s Normal to Grieve
Feeling like you have lost everything one someone dies is normal. It may seem like life has lost is meaning and nothing will ever be the same again. However, grieving is not a state of being but, rather, a process that we move through. The normal stages of grief include shock, denial, guilt, sadness, anger, and acceptance in the end. Coping with the suicide of a loved one can be complicated by the stigma that society often attaches to suicide and the isolation that results from the social stigma. One can have mixed emotions and have difficulty sorting them out. These can include a sense of rejection or abandonment, sadness, and anger, often all at the same time.
The Need to Understand Why
The question of why is often what sets grieving after a suicide different from after an accident, long illness, or loss of life in combat. We tend to second guess our own actions or lack of them. Could we have done something? Were we in some way at fault? Didn’t this person love us if they chose to go away? Part or working through the grief process includes coming accept that you will never know all of the answers and that not knowing is still OK.
Suicide Survivor Risk
A sad fact is that after a person commits suicide there will be friends or family members who will also have suicidal thoughts. It is one thing to feel so bad that you “wish you were dead” and actually to contemplate taking your own life. For those who find themselves in this latter group it is essential to let someone know and seek professional help. It is important to know that grief lessens over time and suicidal thoughts from such a situation usually go away. Talking about these thoughts and not isolating are important.
Checklist for Getting Through the Grief Process
Getting through the grief process and not letting it overwhelm you does not mean that you love the person you lost any less. It means you are doing what they would have wanted, that you move on and take care of yourself. Here are things to think of, do, or recommend to others when grieving after a suicide.
Be Present to Life Even When Grieving
Stay tuned to each moment in life as this way you will better accept your feelings and be able to respond to situations that arise. Some people find that making notes or journaling help do this. Others find that meditation or other mindfulness exercises help. Sometimes just making lists of what you need to do will help keep you in the present and tied to the needs of everyday life.
Stay Connected and Express Yourself
Talk to friends or family about how you feel, how you are coping, what you need to do next or what you are worried about. Do this in private but do not be so secretive that you do not do it. It also helps to acknowledge to yourself what you are going through, including when you succeed in coping with this difficult situation. This is not the time to “not be a burden” on your friends. Times like this are what friends are for.
When You Need Help and Support Look for and Ask for It
Those of us who have been in the military or come from military families pride ourselves in being tough and making it through situations, no matter how difficult. If one of your comrades in arms were overwhelmed with grief you would be there for them. Remember that your comrades, friends, or family will want to help you if you need it. Sometimes support groups are helpful and sometimes a person needs to work through things with a professional counselor. Get the help that you need when you need it.
Establish a Routine and Practice Patience
Your loved one is gone buy you are not. Grief will subside with time. In the meantime do what you need to do. Set up a routine with “to do” lists in necessary. Put one foot in front of another, trust in God, and in yourself. Accept that life will go on, get better, and that with a little patience you will get by, feel better, still love the one who you lost, and move on to a happy and fulfilling life.