Bereavement through suicide – World Suicide Prevention Day 9.9.2021
By Andy Spencer, Humanistic Counsellor at The Eaves
Most of us have lost someone at some point in our lives who occupied a special place in our heart. We cherish this relationship and feel safe, secure, loved. The knocks of life somehow seem softer in the shining light of this person’s loving support and presence.
Most of us have also borne the pain and devastation of losing someone with whom we share this special connection. It leaves us feeling overwhelmed by the pain of loss and not having that person with us anymore. We long for them to be back with us, we feel angry at the world and perhaps God for taking them away. We can’t imagine a happy life without that person by our side and we feel that part of our heart died with them and is broken forever.
Now imagine all this with another painful twist. The knowledge that this person who we love and cherish in our heart died by suicide; for someone who loses someone through suicide it is like the cutting knife of grief being driven deeper into their hearts and given a further twist. This feels can feel deeply personal. They feel rejected and abandoned. Was I really loved? Am I loveable? Why did this happen? The person bereaved through suicide is left with so many deeply painful and confusing feelings and unanswered questions and it can feel like they are being torn apart. The pain is excruciating and overwhelming.
When a loved one hurts us we can feel very alone and isolated with our hurt feelings. We can feel stuck with no way out. One of the best ways to come out of isolation and heal this wound is to talk to the person in a non-hurtful way about what happened and how we were hurt. Perhaps you will be heard and emotionally met and will hear the other side of the story and start to understand what happened. You can then hopefully repair the rupture in the relationship, forgive and move on.
But what if the person who hurt you so very deeply isn’t there to talk to because they died through suicide. You feel so hurt, isolated and alone with your feelings yet you can’t talk to them to find out why they left. They are gone forever. You can’t tell them how much you loved them and what they meant to you. How you would have done anything if it meant they would stay. You can’t ask them if you didn’t give them something they needed. Maybe you had an argument with them the week before. You don’t know and it will never be resolved with them. You may feel regret, guilt and somehow blame yourself anyway. You may also feel angry towards the person for not being there and so sad they aren’t there with you at the same time and these conflicting feelings can be so confusing.
To add another further twist, losing someone through suicide can be devastatingly traumatic. For many people they just don’t see it coming. Everything seems normal. The sudden nature of such a devastating loss is shocking and traumatic. This makes everything more confusing and the “Why” question shouts louder. For others, they can be the first person to find their loved one deceased. This again is a devastating shock and is a major trauma.
Many people who have lost someone through suicide find people won’t talk about it and this leads to feelings of isolation. They can feel rejected by others and feel stigmatised due to the nature of their loss and this can lead to feelings of shame. It’s the unmentionable. You could talk about your feelings but will they understand? Will they judge the person I have lost as well as me and my family?
It has been said that we are as sick as our secrets. If we have the courage to share our painful feelings with a therapist or a group where we feel safe, heard, supported and understood, the rugged, sharp inner landscape of out grief can look, feel and be experienced differently. We can also come to the realisation that others can understand how we feel and can walk the path beside us towards a life where we still feel and carry the burden of losing someone close to us but it can be lighter and we can still enjoy a happy, heart-filled life and be fulfilled.
Several charities offer support for survivors of bereavement by suicide, such as SOBS, Papyrus and Cruse. If you are looking for talking therapy, you can contact Andy Spencer or The Eaves. The Eaves offer sessions with qualified, professional therapists either online or in one of our practices in Guildford, Farnham and Godalming, Surrey. They see individuals of all ages, families, couples and young people 12 hours a day, Monday to Saturday between 9am and 9pm. Please call 01483 917000 to speak to a member of the referrals team. You can also send us an enquiry via our website. Click here to find out more.