Surviving Suicide

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Part of human existence, and having the ability to reason, is seeking answers to the question, Why? As a child, when we become aware of our surroundings and start to learn the way of things, we begin to ask why questions. We are curious, we want to know how things work, why they are the way they are. And with those questions, we’d like there to be answers. So what do we do if there aren’t answers? How do we handle it if there’s no way to find them?

Nothing can prepare anyone for the sudden shock of an unexpected death of a loved one. The grief that engulfs the heart and soul is instant and numbing no matter what the cause. However there is another level to the emotions of grief, which pulls one into a vacuum of despair, when someone takes their own life.

A year ago I lost my younger brother to suicide from a prescription overdose. The medical examiner ran blood tests twice and consulted with others before signing the death certificate. Suicide is just too heavy of a term to take lightly. He had to be undoubtedly sure. For our family, it wasn’t something easy to digest either. It wasn’t something that instantly brought us acceptance and understanding or closure, as a heart attack might, or sudden car accident. If anything, it brought more questions and unresolved emotions. Why would he do this? What happened? Why?

This unsettled feeling of not knowing is what every survivor of suicide experiences. Our thoughts wrap up in frustration, when we wrestle with the questions that are left unanswered. How could this have happened? Why did this happen? Why didn’t I know? Could I have prevented it? These questions start a never-ending cycle of everything we could have done, should have done, and would have done if we’d known things were that bad and getting to the point that they did.

Through therapy, prayer and support groups I am moving through grief.Until we find acceptance and peace around a reality we just cannot comprehend we’ll stay in this cycle. We’ll struggle with these unanswered questions until we no longer need to. And even then, we may not find the answered peace we’re looking for.

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Over the past year, I have moved through all sorts of grief stages and powerful emotions. The months after my brother’s death, I struggled with the lack of control I had over the situation. The emotions of powerlessness I had as a child came back. I always wanted to protect him from the world and bullies, and had memories resurface of doing that for him at different points throughout my life. They were so powerful and taking me over on a deeply emotional level that I began counseling to work through them.

Months later we found out from the autopsy that it was suicide and I rushed to the nearest Christian book store to find a book on suicide. I read and cried through, Finding Your Way After the Suicide of Someone You Love. At the end of the book was a list of resources, one of which was Survivors of Suicide. I remember taking at look at the web site but that was as far as I went.

Now almost a year later, I finally went to a survivors of suicide support group, and even though I’ve only gone twice, I am so grateful for a safe place to share my loss, pain and grief process, as well as receive support and education from those who have gone through this before. I was impressed with how well the facilitator ran the group, and the knowledge and encouragement she shared with everyone. It surprised, but amazed me, to hear that she’s been leading the group for 18 years. It also felt comforting to receive advice from a woman who’s attended the group with her husband for five years. Even with my experience of attending other support groups, I was still full of anxiety before attending this one. However, it quickly subsided as I listened to everyone share and felt safe to share my own story. Attending a support group for the first time can be daunting, and rather frightening. It is okay to go and not share, and just listen and learn. It is also okay to be nervous because it is a huge step in healing from the loss.

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Today, I’m grateful for the available resources to help me understand the link between mental illness and suicide, as well as learn more about the bipolar disorder my brother struggled with most of his life. Through therapy, prayer and support groups I am moving through grief. I emphasize moving through because I believe grief will always be with me and this traumatic loss has forever changed me. However, the weight and heaviness of it no longer has to control me. Through educating myself, I am healing.

It is rewarding to find laughter and connection during such a dark time in my life, realizing that I am not alone. Knowing that grief emotions are normal and there is light at the end of the tunnel is empowering. Having support as we walk this path is God’s gift to us.

For more information on resources, please visit American Foundation for Suicide Prevention or Survivors of Suicide. If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal ideation, call 1-800-273-8255 or text the crisis line at 741741. Help is out there. 

This article first appeared in the October 2007 issue of The Phoenix Spirit. We may earn commissions via the links on this page – at no cost to you.

Help is available. Dial 988.

Last Updated on November 16, 2022

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