Surviving Being a Survivor of Suicide

I wish this wasn’t a topic to write about. Alleviating human suffering is at the core of my profession, and yet everyday there are people who can no longer bear their darkness and take their own lives. In their wake, are the close friends and family who did their very best to help. Unfortunately, these survivors of suicide could not control their loved one’s despair anymore than the person in despair could. And so they are left with loss.

If you are a survivor reading this, you should know that you are not alone in your pain, and the way that you are feeling is perfectly okay. There is no wrong way to feel – there is only feeling, itself.

Emotions are not dictated by logic or reason. Don’t pay attention to the myth that grief follows strict, fixated, rigid, or linear stages. It’s okay to feel whatever you feel, however it feels, and whenever you feel it. It’s okay not to be okay.

Surviving the Holidays

Holidays can be really tough times for survivors, especially if their loved one died in these months. It doesn’t help that our culture forces cheer and joy down our throats, even when we feel at our darkest. It can make the shame, guilt and loneliness even worse.

Below are some tips for how to get through the holidays, or any other really difficult time. Keep in mind, these tips may or may not make you feel better. My goal is not necessarily to change the way you feel – remember, it’s okay not to be okay – rather, my hope in providing these tips is for survivors to find meaning in life, even where there is pain.     

  • You have the freedom to do whatever you choose to do around the holidays – Whether it’s time with friends and family or time to yourself
    • If you would like to be spending more time with family/friends but find it hard to reach out, try this:
      • Can you remember a time, between the times of darkness, when your loved one lived their life to the fullest? What did they stand for in those moments?
      • With this version of your loved one in mind, what do you think they would say to in your time of sadness?
      • What would they say about your struggle to be with family?
  • Self-care and self-compassion
    • If you choose to stay away from family for self-care, that’s okay too. There is no wrong way to react. In this case, a little self-care can go a long way. Here are some ways to find self-care:
      • Do your favorite activity, even if it’s a guilty pleasure. It’s okay not to be okay and it’s okay to be okay, even if it’s just for a little while.
      • Go to that one place you and your loved one always went. It might make you cry, but it might make you smile at the exact same time.
      • Call your favorite person: Friend, family, partner, that one person you really care about but who you haven’t talked to in forever. Talk, laugh, and be heard.
      • Reach out to support groups. They understand the pain, even if they can’t understand your pain. You can find a group in the Tampa Bay area here.
      • View our list of resources here.
      • Exercise: Walk, bike, swim, run, jump, pull, push, whatever exercise you love to do.
    • Let yourself cry. Maybe you have been crying already, but have you just let yourself cry? No holding back, no pushing down, and no need to be strong. Let yourself go and hold yourself tight.
  • These tips are in no way exhaustive. Find what works for you and do that thing.

The takeaway message here is this: Be kind to yourself in your grief, when you cry, when you smile, and when you remember. If you find self-kindness too difficult, bring to mind your loved one lost. If they were right there, next to you, would they shame you? Would they scold you? Or would they hug you? Would they offer kind, gentle, and loving words? Treat yourself as your loved one would treat you when they were at their absolute best. And remember, it’s okay not to be okay.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please call 211, text HOME to 741741, or start a chat with someone online.

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