OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

Surviving After Someone’s Suicide

 

HEALTHY COPING STRATEGIES AFTER A SUICIDE

A suicide can be devastating. These strategies can help you get through it in a way that safeguards your own mental and physical well-being:

  • Keep in touch. Your inclination may be to withdraw into isolation. After all, it may seem easier than confronting painful emotions, reminders or situations. But the support of family, friends, spiritual leaders or your faith community can soothe your distress and even offer a healthy distraction.
  • Share your story. Talking about your experience in the safe and comfortable environment of a support group first can make it easier to tell others about the individual's death later. You may initially struggle with what or how much to reveal. Do what's comfortable for you. Many survivors of suicide find it easiest to be forthright and honest, simply stating that their friend or loved one died by suicide. You may encounter people who don't know what to say to you — they might not even mention your friend or loved one's name, for instance. Or they may seem to avoid you. But that's usually because they don't want to risk saying something inappropriate and wounding you further. Decide whether you want to take the initiative and share your feelings.
  • Do what's right for you. Grieve in your own way, not someone else's. You may find it too painful to visit your friend or loved one's gravesite, for instance, while someone else may want to go every day.
  • Be prepared for painful reminders. Birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and other occasions you normally would celebrate can become painful reminders of your loss. This is a normal reaction, so don't chide yourself for being sad or mournful. If it helps, change or suspend 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. You may, for instance, want to take more time off work after a loved one’s suicide than a standard bereavement leave allows. And don't be hurried by a friend's expectations that it's been "long enough."
  • Expect setbacks. Some days will be better than others. And some days, when you thought things were improving, you may find yourself overwhelmed by powerful emotions once again. The death of another friend or loved one even years later may reawaken memories of the suicide, for example. But know that healing doesn't often happen in a straight line. There'll be bumps, and your coping strategies will help you get over them.

 

It's OK to start enjoying your life again, to find laughter in funny movies or in your toddler's antics. Pursuing hobbies, socializing and having fun aren't a betrayal of your friend or loved one's memory. They're a sign of your healing.

Partner with a counselor as you jouney throught the process of grief by scheduling an appointment at OSU Counseling and Psychological Services (541-737-2131) located on the 5th floor of Snell Hall.

Connect with others who have experienced a death by suicide by clicking here.