Bereavement is an all-consuming experience, yet when presented following a loved one’s suicide the grief that accompanies this can through up complex issues and the frequency for anger, guilt and sheer despair are all the more common.
The unanswered questions that can swirl around someone taking their own life are perhaps the primary cause for many being unable to accept such a loss, such questions may see mourners stuck in a permanent state of grief.
A loss where tragedy is compounded by circumstance and society
No person is ever prepared for bereavement, but the grief that suicide brings may be one of the most difficult processes to experience – it is unexpected, and is also a loss that is accompanied by a question of ‘why?’, which is a question that can be infuriatingly and despairingly unanswerable.
Coping with the stigma that surrounds suicide
Suicide presents an inherently difficult landscape for those who have lost a loved, and sadly society still holds this as something that is taboo and that is relatively poorly understood.
Suicide is a difficult subject for people to speak about and often such losses can result in fewer people helping those who are grieving. This may be compounded within certain cultures or religions – where passing rituals may be limited or altered owing to the way in which such deaths are regraded. All of this can lead to even further feelings of loneliness or abandonment – all of which emphases the need for outside help, where a professional counsellor can provide treatment and care without fear of saying the wrong thing, and with the right knowledge to help you grapple with your many emotions – including those likely stirred up by the way in which others may be reacting to the deceased’s suicide.
The emotions of suicide bereavement
Because of the unique nature of the emotions that accompany bereavement following a suicide, it’s important to explicitly recognise them. You may feel:
Shock: Suicide is almost always unexpected, and it may bring about an extended period of feeling ‘numb’, unable to process the news of your loved one’s passing. Anger: Anger comes in many forms, including anger directed at the person who has taken their own life.
Guilt: Sadly feelings of anger can also be accompanied in equal measure by feelings of guilt that rises from both being angry at the deceased, whilst potentially also being angry at yourself and others for missing any ‘signs’.
Despair: Unrelenting feelings of despair and sadness are always experienced during bereavement, yet it’s also important to understand that losing someone to suicide can bring about suicidal thoughts within those who are mourning such a loss
Confusion: We all try to make some sense of a death – it’s a human instinct, yet suicide can be a loss that’s impossible to comprehend. Whilst you may receive certain answers it’s unlikely that you will ever understand completely the actions and reasons of a person who has taken their own life.
Rejection: You may find yourself at a loss to understand why you, and the relationship that you had with your loved one, wasn't sufficient for them to live on, and for them to confront whatever reasons that led to their death.
Seeking help with bereavement after suicide
Bereavement after suicide can be an impossible process to cope with on your own, and the nature of such a death will likely see you continually imagining the person as still here, particularly during times such as birthdays, life milestones and times of celebration.
There are many bodies that help those coping with bereavement, including Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide, Support after Suicide, Alliance of Hope, Facing the Future and Console - Suicide Prevention and Bereavement – all of which deal exclusively with those effected by suicide.