Wishing You A Peaceful Holiday

Wishing You A Peaceful Holiday

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Why We Neglect Ourselves After Suicide Loss

by Catherine Greenleaf

After losing someone we love to suicide, it is common for us to neglect ourselves. We do this by not eating, not getting enough sleep, repeatedly feeding ourselves negative messages, and not allowing ourselves to feel our feelings.

Why do we torture ourselves in this way? Because, for some reason, we feel guilt and shame around the suicide loss. We cycle endlessly through the same questions: what did I do wrong? what could I have done differently? what was it I said that made him/her do this? what was it I didn't say that made him/her do this?

Because suicide is so sudden and so devastating, if we can't find the answer to why they did it, then we think we must be to blame. This is called "the logic of absurdity." That phrase was coined by Alice Miller, the author of the wonderful book "The Drama of the Gifted Child." In the midst of emotional trauma, we are often given to blaming ourselves for situations we had no control over. As we recover from the trauma, we realize we are not to blame. We realize we don't have, and have never had, enough power to make someone take their own lives. And as far as saving them just in the nick of time? We also realize we are not omniscient and not omnipotent. The qualities of omniscience and omnipotence are godlike qualities. And we are not God, we are merely human.

The other factor that contributes to our urge to neglect ourselves is the stigma society attaches to suicide. What we encounter the most from people in the community is referred to as "The Wall of Silence," according to suicide loss researchers. What we often extrapolate from this silence from others is unspoken condemnation -- that somehow we are flawed and our family is abnormal. Our self-esteem ends up so severely damaged, we sometimes end up believing these thoughts and willingly punish ourselves. None of it, of course, is true. Suicide can happen in any family and the loss  does not make us abnormal. 

What is clear is that the Wall of Silence stems from people's fears of saying the wrong thing and upsetting us. So they say nothing. We are not being condemned. But we are being thrown under the bus, so to speak, by people's lack of education around suicide loss. What we need is a Wall of Support surrounding us.

So, that means we can drop the guilt. We can drop the shame. And we can start nourishing ourselves. What a wonderful journey to be on! We give ourselves everything we need -- rest, nutritious food, sleep, calming music, invigorating exercise. We can go on vacations. We can go to a spa and get a massage! We can help our grief process by attending suicide loss survivor support group meetings. We can make new friends. And we can start sending ourselves positive messages of self-love. It feels good to finally be on our way -- back to ourselves!