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Suicide Loss

Your grief is welcome here.

 

Every type of grief has the potential to be life disrupting, but grief experienced after suicide, overdose, or other traumatic loss can be especially challenging.

My name is Paula, and grief was my initiation into this work. I specialize in grief counseling using art therapy. Particularly, I focus on the more complex grieving process after suicide. 

Please note, the following sections may be difficult to read. If you are recently bereaved or are experiencing intense emotions related to your grief, please take care of yourself in reading this information and stop reading if you feel overwhelmed. You may also reach out, so I can support you in your grieving process.

If you are looking for information on grief counseling, grief in general, and how art therapy can help, please visit my Grief Therapy page.

Suicide Loss

When someone you love dies by suicide, what is already a profound loss is now immensely complicated

You feel many of the emotions typically associated with grief. On top of that, you may experience increased amounts of:

  • Doubt

  • Anger

  • Guilt

  • Isolation

 

Your life has been turned upside down in an instant. You feel lost. You don't know who you are anymore, but you know you won’t be the same

You've been thrust into a dark wilderness of swirling emotions after your loved one’s suicide. Let's bring a few of these experiences to light.

person crying with their head in their hand

Doubt

 

When you lose someone to suicide, you're constantly thinking back to the possible signs—to see if there was something you could have done to change the outcome. Something to make this not your reality.

 

You are left with so many unanswered questions. "Why?" "How?" "Wasn't I enough?" You want to understand, but the only person who can answer these questions is gone.

 

Anger

 

Without answers to those questions above, you are left with anger. This is just all so unfair. You never asked for this. Why couldn't this have been some other way—any other way?

 

The feelings of anger after suicide loss can be intense. Anger at yourself. Anger at your friends and family. Anger at the world. Anger at your loved one for killing themself and leaving you behind

 

You feel a great deal of conflict about your anger. You question if you should be angry or not. These mental gymnastics just make you feel more rage with no place for it to go.

 

Guilt and Shame

 

You feel guilt for all the things you should have said or done, but didn't. 

 

Maybe this was unexpected or out of the blue. You couldn't see it coming until it was too late. You wonder what signs you missed. You rack your brain to see how you could have changed the outcome. Or maybe, you think back to the things you did say that you fear may have contributed to your loved one's death.

 

Maybe this wasn't out of the blue. Perhaps your loved one was in crisis so many times you were just too exhausted to respond again. Except this time, it was different. Even if you saw it coming, it was still a shock. You feel crushing guilt for being completely powerless to stop it. Or you made the gut-wrenching decision to let go of the outcome and the worst-case scenario did happen.

 

You are now left simply with guilt. Perhaps this even digs deeper into shame, where you feel bad about yourself as a person. You think: "What does this mean about me?" You wonder if you would have been a better partner, sibling, parent, friend, etc., would they still be here?

 

You think, "It's my fault." 

 

Isolation

 

Grief after suicide can be isolating. Others may not understand or want to talk about it. Our society already denies death. But add suicide? No one knows how to talk about that. How do you respond when you tell someone your loved one died and they ask, "What happened?"

 

Those that do know what happened may stop reaching out. They don't know what to say, so they stay silent. And you are left feeling even more alone. 

 

Perhaps you don't want to talk about it either—at least not to just anyone. You don't want to manage their unhelpful responses on top of everything else. You can't hear another platitude or empty sympathy: ... everything happens for a reason ... they're in a better place ... this will make you stronger ... time heals all wounds ... you'll be better for this ... well at least …

 

Also, you may feel some shame and embarrassment, as you, too, experience stigma around suicide. You're not sure how to feel about all this. You're confused and alone in your pain.

 

 

...And More...

 

There are many more emotions and experiences you have that are common to other types of grief. Please visit my Grief Therapy page to read more.

So Now What?

When the experience of grief after suicide becomes too overwhelming to talk about, art therapy offers an alternative—a creative approach to learning to live with grief. In art therapy we can identify the layers of your pain one small step at a time. We will move at a pace that feels manageable for you. 

 

I talk about using art therapy to support you in your grief in this section of my Grief Therapy page. We can aim for similar goals while acknowledging the unique pain you experience as a suicide survivor. 

To get to know me, please visit my About page.

If you are looking for additional resources on suicide loss beyond individual counseling, a great place to start is the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP).

Two people looking at a compass and map together

Let's face this together.

Reach out now.

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