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Surviving the Suicide of A loved one

When a loved one commits suicide those left behind are stunned and in shock. They will go over and over the last days, minutes, conversation and time with the suicidee searching for clues and wondering why-why-WHY they couldn't see this coming. Wondering why he or she didn't come to them. They believe that if given the chance their intervention and support may have thwarted the fateful decision.

Most often a note or message of some kind left behind gives clues about the desperation, despair and depression leading to the decision. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Most often the death is preceded by a crippling depression. Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness are powerful emotions leading to despair. A failed relationship is often the spark that fans the flames of feeling worthless and has a devastating effect with no real or perceived resolution. Suicide may be premeditated or impulsive.

Often they have signaled their self destructive thoughts and plans. Many times clues are given, but they are so subtle that they are not understood until later. Or they may lash out in a rage to hurt or punish someone who they believe has abandoned, betrayed or offended them. When the depression is chronic the suicide may be planned down to the smallest detail.

I knew one young man who wrote his final bills and signed the checks leaving only the amounts blank to be filled in and mailed in the addressed stamped envelopes after his death. He rehearsed his death so many times inhis mind, that when the time came the final act easy.but not for his family and friends. They were shocked, devastated and riddled with guilt at not realizing how lonely and unhappy he really was.

Impulsive suicide may be prevented with intervention. Threat of suicide is a call for help. Women threaten suicide more often than man generally using pills. Men on the other hand commit suicide more often than women using more violent means like a gun or hanging. Any threat or talk about suicide should be taken seriously, even if disguised as a joke.

Help is available in the form of either voluntary or involuntary admission to a psychiatric hospital. When a person is "a danger to their self or others" they meet the criteria for admission. The usual stay is a 72 hour evaluation which gives time for "cooling off period," getting a diagnosis and being prescribed medication if necessary. A voluntary admission is better, but if they refuse to go then call 911 and the police will escort them. A court order will be issued for an involuntary admission.

Obviously a voluntary admission is better and less traumatic. Many suicides are avoided by getting help. This may be hard to do but you could save a life. They worst part is all the unanswered questions that will never be answered and the inevitable guilt felt by survivors. Guilt is a useless emotion after the fact.

Don't use it to beat yourself up. It will only delay healing your grief. Healing the grief for such a traumatic loss can be an emotional roller coaster and the healing process will be complicated and prolonged. Every survivor had a different relationship to the victim and each person will grieve in his or her own way. Grieving is a very individual and personal process. Grieving is a very personal process and everyone does it in their own way.

There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Don't judge others if they don't grieve the way you do. This is a time of great stress. It is important to be patient and tolerant of yourself and others. Support groups can be very helpful to some people to facilitate the emotional healing process. Talking to people who have had a similar expereince can be useful and bonding.

It is worth checking out this resource This is a time to be gentle and kind to yourself.

The book Letting Go With Love:The Grieving Process has more information on this topic including a chapter of Suicide. The author Dr. Nancy O'Connor has personally expereinced the suicide of her father and brother. Her book is available at and on the web site

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