After A Suicide
Postvention is a term used to describe prevention measures implemented after a crisis or traumatic event to reduce the risk to those who have witnessed or been affected by the tragedy.
WHAT GRIEF LOOKS LIKE
The moments after finding out that someone in your family has completed suicide is impossible to describe. Complete shock, disbelief, anger, and disabling pain. Time stops. The ability to make sense of anything is impossible. A part of you has died, literally, and you’re fighting to stay alive. The impossible has become possible. You no longer feel safe in the world. None of your loved ones are safe. Every breath is labored. You wait for someone to say it’s all been a mistake and they are still alive. They don’t. Police, ambulances, family, friends, hospitals. Time stands still. For some, most, shame settles over like a dark cloud. Guilt. Pleading with God for a different outcome. Nothing changes. They’re gone. But you don’t believe it because once you’re alone in the home, you hear their voices and sounds of their foot steps. You watch the doorways waiting for them to walk through. The days and months following are a mixture of intense emotions such as deep sadness, disbelief, anger, denial, confusion, guilt, rejection, shame, panic, disorganization, regret, loneliness, isolation, numbness, fear, searching, emotional outbursts, re-entry troubles, new patterns, new relationships, helping others, hope, advocacy
ADOPT HEALTHY COPING STRATEGIES
The aftermath of a loved one’s suicide can be physically and emotionally exhausting. As you work through your grief, be careful to protect your own well-being. Keep in touch. Reach out to loved ones, friends and spiritual leaders for comfort, understanding and healing. Surround yourself with people who are willing to listen when you need to talk, as well as those who’ll simply offer a shoulder to lean on when you’d rather be silent. Grieve in your own way. Do what’s right for you, not necessarily someone else. There is no single “right” way to grieve. If you find it too painful to visit your loved one’s gravesite or share the details of your loved one’s death, wait until you’re ready. Be prepared for painful reminders. Anniversaries, holidays and other special occasions can be painful reminders of your loved one’s suicide. Don’t chide yourself for being sad or mournful. Instead, consider changing or suspending family traditions that are too painful to continue. Don’t rush yourself. Losing someone to suicide is a tremendous blow, and healing must occur at its own pace. Don’t be hurried by anyone else’s expectations that it’s been “long enough.” Expect setbacks. Some days will be better than others, even years after the suicide — and that’s OK. Healing doesn’t often happen in a straight line. Consider a support group for families affected by suicide. Sharing your story with others who are experiencing the same type of grief might help you find a sense of purpose or strength. However, if you find going to these groups keeps you ruminating on your loved one’s death, seek out other methods of support.
KNOW WHEN TO SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP
If you experience intense or unrelenting anguish or physical problems, ask your doctor or mental health provider for help. Seeking professional help is especially important if you think you might be depressed or you have recurring thoughts of suicide. Unresolved grief can turn into complicated grief, where painful emotions are so long lasting and severe that you have trouble resuming your own life. Depending on the circumstances, you might benefit from individual or family therapy — either to get you through the worst of the crisis or to help you adjust to life after suicide. Short-term medication can be helpful in some cases, too.
Dealing With Stigma
Many people have trouble discussing suicide, and might not reach out to you. This could leave you feeling isolated or abandoned if the support you expected to receive just isn’t there. Additionally, some religions limit the rituals available to people who’ve committed suicide, which could also leave you feeling alone. You might also feel deprived of some of the usual tools you depended on in the past to help you cope. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) and the Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC) has compiled a comprehensive resource to help schools after a suicide. Many of the resources listed in this section come from AFSP. For additional information go to:
Hope 4 Utah has excellent resources to answer a school suicide.