PETE BLISS, TH.D., D.MIN.
Q: What are the grief reactions faced by individuals who have experienced a suicide loss?
A: Survivors often experience a wide range of grief reactions, including some or all of the following:
- Shock is a common immediate reaction. You may feel numb or disoriented, and may have trouble concentrating.
- Symptoms of depression, including disturbed sleep, loss of appetite, intense sadness, and lack of energy.
- Anger towards the deceased, another family member, a therapist, or yourself.
- Relief, particularly if the suicide followed a long and difficult mental illness.
- Guilt, including thinking, “If only I had.…” Many survivors struggle to understand the reasons for the suicide, asking themselves over and over again: “Why?” Many replay their loved ones’ last days, searching for clues, particularly if they did not see any signs that suicide was imminent. Because suicide is often poorly understood, some survivors feel unfairly victimized by stigma. They may feel that suicide is somehow shameful, or that they or their family are somehow to blame for this tragedy.
Q: What are the complications faced by individuals grieving a suicide loss?
A: There are many complicated issues that can arise simultaneously with a suicide loss, resulting in further trauma. As a result, survivors of suicide loss are generally prone to avoidance. We do not want to discuss our loss, so we suffer in silence. Caregivers, loved ones, and significant others need to be assertive, but not smothering, as they attempt to support survivors on this most difficult journey. Some of the additional complications to suicide loss include:
- Talking with people about what happened
- Talking with children
- Funeral or memorial preparations
- Legal issues and law enforcement interaction
- Cause of death ruling delays
- Family disagreements
- Financial issues – Debt, Expenses, Income
Q: What was the response of the attendees at the Educational Suicide Loss Series?
A: The response of the attendees was very positive. The majority of attendees indicated that while support groups and individual therapy were needed and effective, they also wanted education on the topic. Several forged strong, healthy and supportive friendships with each other during the course of the series. Some comments included:
“Session 3 explaining the suicidal mind confirmed my thoughts about my son’s spiral into irrational thinking. The last session emphasizing gratitude and acceptance hit home. I will never be able to turn back time but I can live life for him and keep his memory alive for his children and me. Thank you for presenting a difficult yet informative series.”
“I really appreciated and connected with this group. Everything was presented from a totally different aspect. We all know we lost someone we love, but in the grieving process, it is hard to understand the workings of the mind and the “whys.” We just can’t grasp that they left us in such a tragic way. This group and the teachings taught me that when sharing with others, our pain eases somewhat. I feel I now have a better view inside a person that makes suicide the only option to ease the pain that he/she are bombarded with on an ongoing basis. I looked around the room
and saw pain, tears, compassion, courage, hope and a future.”
Q: Are there any resources that you recommend for individuals grieving a suicide loss?
A: We launched the long-awaited Cuyahoga County Survivors of Suicide Loss in July, which will be a very valuable local resource. Several websites have an abundance of valuable, practical information for loss survivors:
- American Association of Suicidology
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
- Survivors of Suicide
- If you are in crisis and need immediate help:
- Call Cuyahoga County’s 24/7 Suicide Prevention Crisis Hotline 216.623.6888
- Text “4Hope” to 741741
- Call 911
- Go to the Emergency Room
Cornerstone of Hope offers structured grief support groups as well as educational series led by professional facilitators.
Suicide Support Groups – Learn More
Pete Bliss is the Founder/Coordinator, Cuyahoga County Suicide Postvention Response Team, which partners with the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office to reach out to those most immediately impacted by suicide loss. He regularly provides suicide prevention and loss response training for law enforcement teams, first responders, and a wide array of other community service providers.