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© Copyright Lotus ~ July
A young woman whose father committed suicide at the age of forty-eight
was heard saying,
You never get over a suicide. You just learn to deal with
it. Our friends get over it right away
but its something we live with for the rest of our lives.
Losing a loved one to suicide leaves those left behind stunned,
not able to comprehend the word
suicide. This death feels foreign, as though it
has suddenly risen from the depths of nowhere.
The World Health Organization projects that one million people
will die from suicide this year -
a global mortality rate of 16 per 100,000, or one death every
40 seconds and the Journal of the
American Medical Association reports that 95% of all suicides
occur at the peak of a depressive episode.
Stigma associated with depressive illnesses can prevent people
from seeking help. A willingness
to talk about depression and suicide with a friend, family member,
or co-worker can be the first
step in helping to prevent a suicide.
Suicide is a difficult subject to understand, to talk about
and to accept because of the intensity of
emotions that surround the experience. When we love someone,
we inevitably set ourselves up
for pain and grief when that love is severed. Suicide severs
that love without warning, leaving us
without closure and a journey of complex grief to resolve.
Coping with a suicide death is more complicated that anything
you could have ever imagined. As
shock and denial begin to wear off, you are left with exaggerated
feelings. Feelings of rage,
anger and guilt can often leave a family in a "hostile
atmosphere." Each person feeling hurt and
betrayed yet not understanding the "why" of this death
makes it more difficult to share their
thoughts and feelings leaving mourners more isolated. The subject
of suicide becomes "taboo"
and the silence stunts the mourning process as loved ones simply
hide what is really going on.
Neither poverty nor wealth account for suicide. Being anxious,
feeling stressed, divorce, single
parents, pressure and anxieties, loss of a job, fighting/arguments,
none of these cause suicide.
Bad parenting does not cause suicide and good parenting does
not prevent suicide. The causes of
suicide are multiple and do not necessarily involve dramatic
tragedy or failure in love or life.
Biology, genetics, psychology of mind and personality, and life
events can all be villains that contribute.
It is extremely important to understand people contemplating
suicide usually feel hopeless. They
believe there are no answers to the pain and problems in their
life but death. This bleakness, as I
mentioned, can come from various sources however most often,
feelings of hopelessness and
desolation are symptoms of clinical depression, a medical and
psychological condition that
afflicts at least one in every fifteen people.
Most survivors admit that there is little anyone can say to
provide comfort. Yet, connecting with
someone usually leads to greater peace. This is also true for
those who have attempted suicide themselves.
Like anger, intense guilt is not unusual in this situation.
Despite the fact that we know and
understand we can only be responsible for our own choices, when
someone we love takes their
life, we tend to think that we could have done something to
prevent it. It is crucial to recognize
the limitations of ones ability to have prevented this
death. This was a decision made by
another. It is also important to remember that suicide is not
a disease that can be transmitted.
Suicide is not a rational or clearly thought out action. If
suicide is any kind of choice, it is a
choice in which someone is unable to see alternatives and consequences
when all else has failed.
The person who completes this act dies once. Those left behind
die a thousand deaths trying to
relive those moments and understand why.
There are many myths surrounding suicide
Myth: People who talk about it don't do it.
Studies have found that more than 75% of all
completed suicides did things in the few weeks or months prior
to their deaths to indicate to
others that they were in deep despair. Anyone expressing suicidal
feelings needs immediate attention.
Myth: Anyone who tries to kill himself has got to be crazy.
Perhaps 10% of all suicidal people
are psychotic or have delusional beliefs about reality. Most
suicidal people suffer from the
recognized mental illness of depression; but many depressed
people adequately manage their daily affairs.
Myth: If a someone is going to kill herself/himself,
nothing can stop her/ him.. Someone
contemplating suicide is ambivalent - part of her/him wants
to live and part of her/him wants not
so much death but wants the pain to end. It is the part that
wants to live that tells another I feel
suicidal. If a suicidal person turns to you it is likely
that he believes that you are more caring
and informed about coping with misfortune.
Myth: Talking about it may give someone the idea.
Not true. People already have the idea. If
you ask a despairing person this question you are showing her/him
that you care and are willing
to listen to what fills their hearts and/or spirits with pain
Myth: Depression is part of the aging process.
It is NOT normal for people of any age to
suffer from depression; this includes our elderly population.
Major depression is an illness, a
chemical imbalance in the brain and can strike people regardless
of age, race or economic
position. The illness can appear after a triggering event or
for no apparent reason.
How often have you heard, Those problems arent enough
to commit suicide over. You cannot
assume the person you are with feels the same way you do. What
seems like a simple problem to
us may be overwhelming to another.
Suicide is one of the most difficult deaths to cope with. It
is vital to understand that suicide is not
solely the result of some sudden, bizarre impulse nor is it
one single act that can be isolated and
analyzed. The final life-taking act cannot be stereotyped
as it is a combination of a whole life
context. Try to deal with the facts of the suicide as soon as
you are able to, making sure you
understand all the information you are given. This can help
relieve any doubts and leave you
better equipped to cope with the truth.
"Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss
is what dies inside us while we
Surviving a Suicide ~ Things You May Experience
Historian Arnold Toynbee once wrote, "There are always
two parties to a death; the person who
dies and the survivors who are bereaved." Unfortunately,
many survivors of suicide suffer alone
and in silence. The silence that surrounds them often complicates
the healing that comes from
being encouraged to mourn.
As a result of fear and misunderstanding, survivors of suicide
deaths are often left with a feeling
of abandonment at a time when they desperately need unconditional
support and understanding.
From Crisis to Recovery is a gradual process of healing as you
re-channel energy from mourning
into living. Do we ever completely recover? No, life has been
altered forever but with patience
and understanding, survivors learn how to reconcile themselves
to the reality of loss. With time
you can learn to move in and out of various emotions, and begin
to understand that healing does
not run a straight path but is a lifelong journey.
Your mourning process will differ in two ways:
You will have the added burden of understanding the motivation
for the death
Your grieving process will be of longer duration.
As a survivor, you may find yourself preoccupied with your loss
trying to reconstruct what
happened as you work your way through the painful aftermath.
Your grief will involve constant change and show itself in all
spheres of your life
mental, emotional and physical resurrecting old losses, feelings
and unfinished business from the past.
You will grieve for many things, lost hopes, dreams and unfulfilled
expectations. Give yourself
permission to grieve. Lean into the grief and draw it closer.
You can't go around it, over it or
under it. You must go through it to survive and begin the healing
process. There is no other way.
As difficult as it is, please do not be afraid to use the word
Thinking that you are losing your mind does not make it so.
Most grieving people experience
this. Feeling scattered and overwhelmed are natural reactions
to this devastating loss as are
feelings of depression or experiencing waves of intensity.
You may feel angry at the person who died, angry at yourself
and/or others and yes even God.
You may also find yourself exploring your faith and religion
especially if you have been taught
that persons who take their own lives are doomed to hell.
Express your feelings. Suppressing grief keeps one in a continual
state of stress and shock,
unable to move from it.
Acknowledge any feelings of anger or guilt. Sudden death intensifies
anger and guilt. It is natural to wonder if you could have helped
prevent this from happening but
the actions of another are beyond your control. Persistent self-blame
can only result in self-damaging.
You may experience shame because
of the social stigma, either real or perceived, by which you
are affected. Many are taught from childhood that suicidal people
are shameful, sinful, weak,
selfish, and so on. None of these ideas are true.
Certain dates, events and celebrations may bring an upsurge
Looking After Yourself
When you are grieving, looking after your physical, emotional,
mental and spiritual well being is
extremely important and often neglected. Taking care of all
aspects of self can have an
immense influence on the mind, body and spirit.
As I mentioned earlier, grief is a journey we take from the
person we use to be to the person we
will become. To help ease the transitions, simple steps can
Insomnia is common to grieving and sleep is a necessary ingredient
to healing. If you are having
trouble sleeping, talk to your family doctor, or health care
practitioner. Practice meditation or
gentle stretches before climbing into bed.
A warm bath can be soothing and help you unwind as can listening
to music or reading a light book.
Massage is very comforting, healing and useful to help promote
Nutrition is a major factor in how you feel and even if eating
seems like an unachievable goal, it
is important to try and maintain a healthy diet.
Some form of exercise is also vital and can often improve your
Keeping a journal is a wonderful way to help sort out your thoughts.
It can provide a means for release.
Give yourself simple pleasures. Although they dont offer
solutions, they do provide relief.
Dont be afraid to ask for help. Support groups can be
an important source of help for survivors.
You can benefit enormously by sharing your concerns and feelings
with others who have, like
yourself, experienced anger, guilt, confusion, fear, and all
the emotions that erupt during a
To share times of pain with another, is a touching sacred moment,
from which we emerge as a
wiser, more sensitive human being.
Give Yourself Permission
The death of a loved one is a reluctant and drastic amputation,
without any anesthesia. No scale
can measure the loss. Allow yourself to feel your emotions and
openly express your grief. Dont
allow anyone to tell you what you should or should not be feeling.
Remember, you are unique
and so is your grief.
To Cry - Tears release the flood of sorrow filling our
hearts and spirits. A good cry can make
you feel better and more at peace. Each tear released helps
relieve the brutal force of hurting and
missing our loved one. Tears are a way to mend the pain and
suffering of life. They are neither
something to be ashamed of nor something we must force.
To Laugh - Laughter is not a sign of less grief or less
love. Laughter is a wonderful tonic and has
marvelous healing power. It can also enhance your over-all well
being and encourage happy
thoughts and memories to resurface. Laughter is the best medicine!
To Heal - Patience and perseverance will help you get
in touch with your feelings. As the months
pass, you will find yourself slowly moving away from outward
grieving. This is not an indication
that you have forgotten your loved one, it is merely a sign
you have come to terms with your loss
and healing has begun. Trust your instincts and live one day
at a time.
As time passes, you will heal but your scars may never fade.
The broken pieces of ourselves are
often our greatest teachers. From them we gain wisdom, understanding,
compassion, faith and
insight. It is from them we learn that we can go on.
I am including an article that I feel goes hand-in-hand with
the above. If you know someone who
is thinking about suicide, please read this
Most people have suicidal thoughts or feelings at some point
in their lives, feeling totally alone
or wondering if life is worth living. Yet less than 2% of all
deaths are suicides. Most people
contemplating suicide suffer from conditions that will pass
with time or with the assistance of a
recovery program. There are many steps we can take to improve
our response to those in crisis
and help reduce a great deal of human suffering. Education,
recognition and treatment are the
keys to suicide prevention.
I dont know who you are, or why you are reading this but
I can assume that you are because you
or someone you care about is troubled and possibly considering
ending their/your life. If it were
possible, I would prefer to be there, sitting with you talking,
face-to-face, heart to heart. But
since that is not possible, we will have to make do with this.
Now Id Like You to Call Someone
I have known many who have wanted to kill themselves, even I
contemplated suicide many years
ago. So I have some awareness of what you might be feeling.
I know you might not be up to
lengthy discussions but if you can spare me a few moments, I
have some things I would like to
share with you. I wont argue with you about whether you
should kill yourself and I don't want to
talk you out of your bad feelings. Obviously if you are thinking
of ending your life, you must be
feeling pretty darn lousy.
Id like to ask you to stay and read some of my thoughts.
I hope you will. It may help you see
that even in the deepest darkness of despair, you may be not
be sure about ending your life.
Being unsure about dying is okay and normal. The fact that you
are still alive at this minute
means you are still a little bit unsure. It means that even
while you want to die, some part of you
still wants to live. So lets hang on to that, and keep
going for a few more minutes.
Let's begin by understanding that "Suicide is not
chosen, it happens when our pain exceeds our
resources for coping. Thats all its about. You are
not a bad person, or crazy, or weak, or flawed,
because you feel suicidal. It doesnt even mean that you
really want to die - it only means that
you have more pain than you can cope with right now. So I need
you to understand that when our
pain exceeds our coping skills, suicidal feelings are the result.
Suicide is neither wrong nor right;
it is not a defect of character; it is morally neutral. It is
simply an imbalance of pain versus
You can survive suicidal feelings if you do either of two things:
Find a way to reduce your pain, or find a way to increase your
coping resources. Both are
possible. You need to hear that people DO get through this -
even people who feel as badly as
you are feeling now
the longest journey begins with just
People often turn to suicide because they are seeking relief
from pain. Remember that relief is a
feeling. And you have to be alive to feel it. You will not feel
the relief you so desperately seek, if
you are dead. Remember Feelings and Actions ARE two different
things. Just because you feel
like killing yourself, doesnt mean that you have to actually
"do it right this minute."
So I am going to ask you put a little distance between your
suicidal feelings and suicidal action.
Some people may react badly to your suicidal thoughts and feelings,
either because they are
frightened, or angry. They may actually increase your pain instead
of helping you, despite their
intentions, by saying or doing thoughtless things. You have
to understand these are people who
care and that their reactions are about their fears, not about
But there are people out there who can be with you who will
not judge or argue with you, or send
you to a hospital, or try to talk you out of how badly you feel.
They will simply listen to you.
Find one of them. It is okay to ask for help. Try The
Samaritans by phone or e-mail
worldwide, or look in the front of your phone book for a Crisis
Line. Call 1-800-suicide in the
U.S., carefully choose a friend or a minister, priest, rabbi,
or doctor, someone who is likely to
listen. If you are too shaky to locate a number, call the operator
and ask her to direct you to the
nearest Crisis Line. But dont give yourself the additional
burden of trying to deal with this
alone. Just talking about how you got to where you are, releases
an awful lot of the pressure, and
it might be just the additional coping resource you need to
regain your balance.
Adapted from "Now I'd like you to call someone" and
reprinted with permission.
Written by Martha Ainsworth © Copyright 1995-2002 and based
on work by: David Conroy
PhD and as a Public Service.
Copyright: Cinnamon Moon & River WildFire Moon (Founders.)
All rights reserved.
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