By Catherine Greenleaf
You are probably reading this blog because you have lost someone you love to suicide. I am so very sorry for your loss, and I hope you are doing all you can to take good care of yourself. Suicide loss can have quite an impact on your sense of well-being, your self-esteem and your physical health. It's very important to nurture yourself during these difficult times while you recover from your loss.
Some things you can do right away:
1) Surround yourself with people who validate your loss. Steer clear of the people who seem to be hurrying you through your grief, telling you to "Buck up," "Get over it," and "Move on." Grief takes its own time. There is no stopwatch for your loss. You will get through it in your own way and on your own terms.
2) While we may be living in the 21st century, there is, unfortunately, still a great deal of stigma associated with suicide. You are in a very emotionally fragile and vulnerable place right now. Be careful to shield yourself from the many conflicting views and opinions of others with regard to suicide. Don’t be afraid to stand up for your loved one when others would prefer to condemn or criticize. Not everyone is aware 90% of all suicides result from brain disorders, including chronic depression.
3) Get plenty of rest, good food and quiet time. In other words, nourish yourself, body and soul. This can be challenging because grief can sometimes cause sleeplessness and lack of appetite. Yoga, meditation, quiet walks, soothing music, gardening, dinners with close friends – all of these can go a long way to helping you feel more centered and grounded.
4) Build a strong safety net for yourself. A safety net is comprised of people you can trust to help you during an emotional crisis. A good team would include: a qualified sudden death bereavement therapist; a licensed psycho-pharmacologist to dispense any needed medications for anxiety, depression or insomnia; a weekly or monthly suicide loss survivor support group; and friends who are good at listening and being there for you. The stronger your safety net, the shorter distance you fall during difficult times.
5) Consider getting yourself screened for PTSD. You may have witnessed the suicide or walked in on a completed suicide, the shock of which can cause PTSD. But you should know that just receiving the news can be enough to propel some people into PTSD. Symptoms include: preoccupation or shell-shocked state; agitation, hyper-vigilance, time distortion, anxiety attacks, insomnia, intrusive thoughts, dissociation, and flashbacks. There are very effective treatments for PTSD. Don’t be afraid to get screened and get the help you need and deserve.
6) Lastly, don’t be afraid to speak up. Communities often need lots of educating when it comes to suicide prevention and/or postvention. When you are feeling strong enough, help your community step into the light of awareness. Ask your town library to carry books about brain disorders. Suggest your local high school offer talks on suicide prevention for its students. Your involvement may not only be rewarding and gratifying for you, but more than likely will save lives.