Left Behind After Suicide


Every year in the United States, about 33,000 people take their own lives. Every one of these deaths leaves an estimated six or more “suicide survivors”—people who’ve lost someone they care about deeply and are left grieving and struggling to understand.

What makes Suicide different?

Death by suicide if sudden, sometimes violent and usually unexpected. Survivors typically have recurring thoughts of the death and its circumstances. They may replay the final moments over and over either in an effort to understand or simply because they can’t get the toughest out of their heads. Some suicide survivors develop post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), an anxiety disorder that can become chronic if not treated.

Suicide can isolate survivors from their community and even from other family members. There is still a powerful stigma attached to mental illness, which is a factor in many suicides. In fact, several religions condemn it as a sin. Survivors often feel they should have done something to prevent it and shame that they didn’t.

After a homicide, survivors can direct their anger at the perpetrator. In a suicide, the victim is the perpetrator. Feelings of anger, abandonment, guilt and rejection are common and are especially difficult to sort out after a suicide.

What if”questions are common. What if I hadn’t gone out? What if I had said something sooner? These questions only serve to unrealistically punish the survivor for failing to prevent or predict the suicide in time.

“Unfortunately, survivors usually overestimate their ability to affect the outcome and spend many years wishing they had acted differently.”

Survivors are at increased risk for thinking about, planning or even attempting suicide. If these feelings persist or grow more intense, please confide in someone you trust or seek the help of a mental health professional.

How can I help a suicide survivor?

Knowing what to say after any death is always hard, but it often even harder after a suicide. As with any other death, it is important to express your concern, listen to whatever the person wants to talk about and offer help with practical tasks. Here are some considerations that are particularly useful for suicide survivors:

How can a mental health professional help?

It is important to seek out a therapist who is experienced in working with grief after suicide. Such a therapist can provide support in many ways, including:

Immediately after the suicide, assistance from a mental health professional can be particularly beneficial if you are experiencing any of the following:

If you, or someone you know, is struggling and need help please reach out to our office immediately. We offer same day or next day urgent appointments and this can dramatically help you avoid expensive ER visits or even hospitalization. We are a patient focused practice and here to help you recover.

With Compassion,

Dr. Nicola Gray

Dr. Nicola Gray

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