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Coping with Loss

Understanding Suicide Loss

In her short documentary about the death of her mother, filmmaker Diane Conn calls suicide “a very special loss” because it’s a loss that people don’t often understand and consequently slip it under the rug or attempt to hide in the closet (See the video here). The stigma that follows suicide has traditionally loomed large over each bereaved person, keeping the grief experience hidden for many people. Likewise, each person in a family will grieve differently, sometimes making it difficult for individual family members to find support. And some communities are more open about suicide than others. Here we provide you with as much information about what suicide loss is, various ways of coping, research, and resources to help you navigate your way through this very special loss. As you read through and absorb the information we’ve gathered for you, remember that not all of it will pertain to you and that you might come back a month from now when the information could mean something different. Grief is an individual process that changes as we travel through it. Most of all, know that somewhere on the journey that hope is waiting for you.

The Language Around Suicide Loss

Often after a suicide, we don’t know how to describe ourselves. Who are we? Do we belong to a community? And if we do, what community is that? Below we discuss some of the common terms to describe the grief process, people who have lost a loved one to suicide, and how those terms evolve as the field continues to move forward to support people coping with suicide loss. Read more here about the language that describes suicide loss.

Who is a survivor of suicide loss? How many of us are there?

And other commonly asked questions by survivors of suicide loss. Read the questions and the answers here.

What are the emotions of suicide grief?

Suicide loss is confusing and so are the emotions. Read more about what to expect here.

How Individuals and Families Cope Uniquely with Suicide Loss

Each of us copes with suicide loss differently. Understand better how we cope and how our family members and other loved ones might grieve uniquely. Knowing what to expect often can help ease the journey.

Helping Children and Teens Cope with Suicide Loss

The resources for children and teens after suicide loss continue to grow. Here we offer some of the newest and best resources available.

Model Programs Around the World for the Bereaved by Suicide

The number of programs continues to expand and here you can read about a few of the model programs.

Religious and Cultural Views of Suicide

Read about how various religious communities and cultures view suicide and what they do to help the people left behind here.

Coping with Suicide Loss

How do I cope with my overwhelming grief? Read suggestions here from clinicians and fellow survivors of suicide loss of how to process the grief journey and find hope again. Topics include general grief care, bibilotherapy, using writing to heal, and how pets comfort us. We also include an article about how we maintain connections to our loved ones who have died.

Finding Meaning in Loss

Grieving a suicide loss doesn’t mean our lives will be sad for the duration. We have opportunities to make meaning of our losses and achieving posttraumatic growth. Learn more here how that happens and how we can achieve it.

Poetry, Articles of Hope, and Inspirational Words about Suicide Loss

Read what other survivors of suicide loss and inspirational people like Deepak Chopra have written about coping with suicide here.

Advocacy

Getting involved by working on legislative policy around suicide and mental illness are ways survivors of suicide loss can make a difference here.

Therapists as Survivors of Suicide Loss

If you are a therapist and lost a client or family member to suicide loss, read more about how to cope with your unique loss here.

Research

While the studies about suicide loss and helping survivors remain limited, we’ve compiled a comprehensive list here that you can sift through. Many of the researchers who conducted these studies have been involved in this web site.

Resources and Support Communities

As the Internet grows, so do the online resources for suicide loss. An extensive list is provided here. If you’re looking for a local support group or one online, you’ll find the links for them here. Or if you’re wondering whether or not support groups are useful, see what researcher Julie Cerel says. HEARTBEAT founder LaRita Archibald offers information if you’d like to start a support group.

Comments

01/12/2020 at 5:44 PM
Maria Small
We lost our 10 year old daughter to suicide this year. She hung herself on 1/1/20; however, we were blessed enough to have five days with her before she was declared brain dead. Her 11th birthday would be on Valentines Day 2020. We are so confused, how did this happen! There were no signs. She was happy most of the time. I noticed what I thought was a normal change about 5 months ago when she started her period, but it wasn’t anything that I had not already went through with her older sisters. Moodiness and extra sensitivity. She had a falling out with her friends and it really affected her. She cried about it and said she felt betrayed. I held her and tried to help her through it but I did not think that she was hopeless over it. That day began like any other and seeing her on some cameras around the house, she seemed happy. She was actually skipping. Then she asked if she could take a bath in our tub because hers didn’t have jets and we said yes. She was in there for almost two hours. I was doing laundry and went to hang up her clothes and noticed a huge mess in her room so I told her that she had 10 minutes to clean it up. About 20 or 30 minutes later I yelled for her and with annoyance in her voice she asked me why I was yelling her name. I asked her if she was finished and she said almost. We got into it like we normally do. Me telling her to get the room clean and her asking why.After a few minutes of back and forth I said “enough, go finish “. She tried to say something else and I said “nope, go get it done.” That was the last time I spoke with my baby because a few minutes later we found her hanging in her closet. We quickly began CPR and I felt a faint heartbeat but she never woke up again. The guilt that I feel weighs heavy on me. The last thing I did was yell at my baby over a stupid room. Our conversation was like so many before so I didn’t imagine that it would be the last straw for her. I love my baby more than anything and she was raised with so much love. She was always the center of the house hold because she was the baby. How the hell are we supposed to survive this? Her father is besides himself, the bond that they have was so beautiful to see. We reviewed pictures and videos and all we see is how loved she was, so why did this happen? Why was normal banter between her and I all it took. I am suffering for losing her, I feel guilty for yelling at her and I am terrified for her soul. Is she free now? Is this a sin? At 10 years old how could she have known. We are praying for strength but we seem to hang between utter sadness and numbness. We are looking for support groups but the ones we found do not begin for a few weeks. We need help...
11/26/2018 at 6:38 PM
L
Clara, I am so sorry for your loss. My 25 year old Evan just passed three weeks ago. It’s such a nightmare. It’s so hard to believe. We did not know the pain he was in.
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