Anyone who thinks that grief after suicide is anything like a bereavement of other sorts, is wrong!
It might have things in common. Huge loss and longing. Funerals. Crippling grief. But it also brings with it complexities that only traumatic loss ever brings. That’s not to say bereavement of any kind is easier or harder, just different and it is vital to acknowledge those differences.
With suicide, the person chose to die. They didn’t die because their bodies gave out, or because of a tragic accident. They chose to depart. And usually those left in their world struggle to understand how this loved human being, chose death over their life with us.
Whether the next day they would have still made that choice is left to be seen.
Whether if they’d had support in that moment, it would have been different, we will never know.
What they needed in order to stay, we cannot put right.
What they were thinking in those moments are just guesses.
Suicide leaves unanswered questions and that is one of the hardest parts of bereavement by suicide. The only person that could answer those questions is gone.
We can’t tell them we love them, or would have helped them through.
We can’t tell them we’d have found a way if they had come to us.
We can’t hold them until it is better.
We can’t give them the hope that we had for them, they’re gone.
Instead we hold onto it for a while, hoping this is going to stop… disappear… not be true… that they’ll come back.
And we don’t know why they did it. Not really.
If things had been different, what the outcome would have been. We don’t know where the blame for their death lies. We question what we could have done differently or how we contributed to their last decision. We search for answers; resolve.
Life is a complicated mess of experiences, where experiences mesh with experiences to lead us down this path of life. The choices that we make, the choices that others make around us, somehow lead some of us to these all-too-often fatal outcomes.
Usually, there is not one experience that contributes to the reason someone takes their life; not a moment in time that drives them there but these complicated internal experiences in relation to every moment spent on earth that accumulate towards this fatal decision.
Yet, guilt is held in so many of the families, friends and colleagues that we see. The ‘what ifs’; the blame; the remorse; the guilt; the shame; the why?
Followed by anger. Agony. Disbelief.
It varies. It changes.
The one thing that’s so consistent about suicide is that it as an avoidable tragedy that is hard to ever reconcile. It destroys lives. It is different for every single person that faces it, and people often struggle to share their thoughts about suicide.
So let’s start to do that today- not wait until our family and friends are effected… because they will be. I see people fundraising for cancer research in the realisation that many of us will now experience a cancer diagnosis or bereavement in our lifetime; many of us already have. I commend these endeavours because not only are we raising money to battle cancer, we are talking about it- sharing our worries, our fears, our losses and that’s healthy and united.
Suicide is the one other certainty I can depressingly endorse- suicide is the biggest killer in the UK- the second biggest killer of our young people- the largest cause of death to our men.
We will know it in our world at some point, even if we’ve escaped it thus far. We will face it in our families, our friends, ourselves… we will contemplate death or support someone who is desperate or console ourselves after a death. Suicide isn’t uncommon.
Let’s talk now. Please.
It might just save a life.
If you want to know more about what we’re up to and the work we do or how to get involved, have a look at our website www.harmless.org.uk, or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.