survivor of suicide loss day
Today is International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day

On November 23, 2019, those who survive individuals lost to suicide come together for support.  This year marks the 20th International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day.  We understand that the holidays can be especially difficult for those who have lost family or friends to suicide.  This November you can be around others who understand how you’re feeling at an International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day Event to remember those you’ve lost and to start your own process of healing.  

Suicide Affects Everyone 

Tragically, the suicide rate in America has increased by 31% since 2000.  This trend is related to the rise in “deaths of despair,” an oft-highlighted part of the opioid crisis.  Suicide rates are higher among: 

  • Native Americans
  • White non-Hispanic Americans
  • Men
  • Individuals between the ages of 45 and 54
  • Populations in the Mountain West, Oklahoma, and Alaska

In 2017, more than 47,000 Americans died from suicide, leaving behind many friends and loved ones.  These survivors are often shocked by the sudden and unexpected nature of death. Some try to blame themselves for not seeing the signs or may feel that they cannot talk about what happened because of the stigma against suicide.  Survivors of those who die from suicide may experience:

  • PTSD
  • Isolation from family, friends, or religious communities 
  • Feelings of blame aimed at themself or others in the family
  • Anger at their loved one who died 
  • A need to understand why
  • Thoughts of self-harm or suicide

It’s normal to feel these things and may be part of your grieving process.  But, if your thoughts start bending toward the fatalistic, you should reach out for help.  Attending suicide survivor support groups can be extremely beneficial, as can working with mental health professionals.  

Suicide Survivors Need Support

After a death by suicide, a community may see suicide attempts related to the first.  Those at the highest risk for “suicide contagion” are those who are close to the deceased socially, who identify with them in one or more ways, or who live, work, or go to school nearby.  These individuals include: 

  • Family and friends of the deceased 
  • Those who witnessed the death or discovered the body
  • First responders
  • Anyone told or hinted to that the deceased might commit suicide
  • Anyone who fought with or picked on the deceased 
  • Anyone who shares a workplace, class, living space, or activity with the deceased 
  • Anyone with a history of depression, trauma, loss, or suicide attempts 
  • Anyone dealing with high stress levels 

Suicide clusters happen most often among teens who are vulnerable to the impact of peer suicides.  One of the best ways to prevent further suicide among at-risk populations is by improving access to professional help and educating your community on what depression is and how treatment can improve outcomes.  

Dealing With the Suicide of a Loved One

If you’re feeling lost, confused, depressed, or struggling with other negative emotions you can’t get rid of, asking for help may seem impossible.  Remember, you don’t have to “be okay” right away. Grieving and healing is a process that can’t be sped up. Though others may experience or express their grief in different ways than you do, that doesn’t mean that one of you is wrong and the other right.  

The most important thing to do is to have patience with yourself while grieving.  Expecting yourself to be at your best in times of grief may only compound the negative feelings.  This means:

  • Being patient with yourself when grieving is not a straightforward process—not every day will be better than the last.
  • Allowing yourself to put off making big decisions until you feel up to it.
  • Understanding that some days will be worse than others and that performing simple tasks can be a herculean achievement when things are hard.
  • Finding people who support you the way you need to be supported. 
  • Allowing yourself to avoid those who try to fit your grief into their own narratives and tell you what you should and should not be doing or feeling.
  • Looking for professional help and support groups for suicide survivors who will understand what you’re going through.
  • Believing that you can make it through this, even though it may be the hardest thing you have ever done.

You should also find your own way to honor and remember the person you lost.  Some may choose to participate in Suicide Prevention Month to help others avoid going through the same thing.  Others choose to make memorial quilts, using their creativity to stitch together fond memories.  You may choose to do something more personal, like getting a tattoo to represent your loved one.  Taking the time to remember the one you lost can help you come to terms with your emotions and provide closure. 

If You’re Struggling, Don’t Wait to Get Help

You don’t have to deal with your grief alone.  Especially after losing a love one to suicide, feelings of depression and hopelessness are common.  If you find yourself not knowing how you’re going to face another day or self-medicating with alcohol or other drugs, know that you are not the only one.  There are people out there who can help you understand and manage your emotions.  

Talk therapy, antidepressant medications, and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) are all options for those who are struggling with depression.  TMS helps stimulate the production and distribution of various neurotransmitters throughout your brain, making it easier for you to manage your moods and find feelings of happiness and calm.  The treatment has been found to help with everything from focus to sleep to healthy practices. 

Life after the suicide of a loved one is especially difficult.  We want to give you the tools you need to cope with your grief in a healthy way—remembering the one you’ve lost without developing negative habits or thinking patterns that can affect your help.

If you’ve lost someone to suicide, don’t wait to ask for help.  Call us today at (310) 878-4346 to learn more about how TMS can help suicide survivors. 

Article By: Chris Howard
Director of Community Outreach & Education Chris Howard has been working in the mental health field since 2010 after seeing the long-term effects of mental illness within his own family. He is a graduate of UCLA where he received his B.A. in Psychology. Having worked closely with those struggling with addiction, Chris considers the concept of community to be an essential part of treatment and advocates for wellness approaches that integrate both leading conventional therapies, as well as holistic practices like yoga and meditation.