It is estimated 1 million people die by suicide each year worldwide; 40,000 occur in the United States.
If you are feeling suicidal, please call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to talk to a counselor at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, or the National Hopeline Network at 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433). If you live outside the US, please visit Befrienders Worldwide.
Suicide leaves behind more questions for the survivors than any other type of death.
A Suicide survivor (or suicide griever) is someone who has lost someone they dearly loved to suicide.
It is estimated that every suicide leaves behind 6-8 Suicide Survivors. Suicide survivors often feel responsible for their loss, which makes the grief of a suicide more complex and prolonged.
How Suicide Grieving Is Different Than Other Deaths:
Many studies have found that suicide survivors struggle with the meaning behind the suicide. These survivors often find it difficult to make sense of motives and the frame of mind of the deceased.
Suicide survivors show higher levels of guilt, self-blame, and feelings of responsibility for not preventing the suicide. Sometimes, the suicide survivors feel as though they directly caused the suicide through abandonment or mistreatment of the deceased. More frequently, they blame themselves for not anticipating and therefore preventing the death.
Several studies show that suicide survivors experience greater feelings of rejection and abandonment by the loved one, in addition to anger toward the deceased.
Coping With Suicide:
Some suicide survivors worry about discussing the nature of their loved one's death. You should make whatever decision feels right, but know that most suicide survivors find it best to simply acknowledge their loved one died by suicide.
You may want to reach out to family and friends for support. Some people may not know what to say, so you may take the initiative to talk about the suicide, your feelings in relation to it, and to ask for help.
Maintaining contact with others is very important (albeit very hard) in the months following a suicide. Keep these things in mind:
- Grief is as unique as the person experiencing it.
- There is no timeline for grieving or healing.
- Take care of yourself and your own well-being.
- Be kind to yourself.
- Take it one day - or one minute - at a time.
- Expect setbacks and unexpected waves of grief.
- Don't be afraid to cry.
- Be patient with those who do not understand what you are going through.
- Anger, guilt, forgetfulness, and confusion are very common emotions following a suicide. You are not alone.
- Anniversaries, holidays and birthdays may be very difficult, so you may want to consider starting a new tradition.
How To Help A Suicide Survivor Heal:
Suicide is a traumatic, often violent, and unexpected death; the grief it causes may be intense and prolonged. What makes the grief for a suicide survivor more difficult is that suicide is still deeply stigmatized.
Every suicide survivor needs immediate support - postvention - at the time of their loss, but it is often unavailable, which may complicate grief even further.
Respect a suicide survivor's need to grieve - and the fact that the grief is complicated by the stigma and secretiveness behind a suicide.
Avoid using cliches and simplistic explanations when talking to a suicide survivor. The offer of a simple solution to an incredibly complicated situation will not help the situation. Avoid passing judgment about the actions of the person who died by suicide. Hearing 'he was crazy' will cause additional hurt to a fresh wound.
Allow your friend to express their feelings without fear of criticism. Don't offer explanations about how your friend should respond. Avoid saying, "I know just how you feel," especially if it is untrue; it can be hurtful to your friend. You do not have to have the answer for them.
Be accepting of how intense and complicated the grief a suicide survivor feels. Especially difficult times may come during the holidays and anniversaries.
Acknowledge the uniqueness of the grief of a suicide survivor.
Be aware of suicide survivors support groups.
Related Resources on Band Back Together
Additional Resources for Suicide Survivors:
Suicide Reference Library - A resource list created and maintained by volunteers from several on-line survivor communities.
Survivors of Suicide - General information about surviving suicide loss.
Suicide Memorial Wall - Created to remember some of the names of those who died by suicide and to encourage survivors to better understand the causes of suicide.
Friends and Families of Suicides - Website provides information for friends and families of suicides, along with an online support group
Parents of Suicides - Website provides information for parents who have lost a son or daughter to suicide, along with an online support group.