The playwright Robert Anderson once wrote, “Death ends a life but not a relationship, which struggles in the survivor’s mind toward some resolution that may never come.”
Every personal loss of a loved one is profound, particularly so if it is a sudden occurrence. Blindsided by tragedy, few people can absorb the blow without stumbling. For so many, grief becomes a constant companion. And for survivors of suicide the sorrow may never completely end, even if it does diminish.
Well meaning friends say awkward things: “He is in a better place,” “At least she is no longer in pain,” or “What actually happened?”
Better to have said: “I know you must miss him terribly,” “She was your gift to the world,” “I will never forget her,” or “He was such a fine man.”
Perhaps the most difficult situation for the loss survivor is the SILENCE. Friends and family, thinking that bringing up the subject of suicide would cause unnecessary pain, avoid talking about the loss. In truth, many if not most loss survivors need to talk about their experience. Not being able to talk about their thoughts and feelings compounds their emptiness and grief. This is the essence of Survivors of Suicide (SOS) groups, where people with similar experiences gather to share their stories.
While mental health professionals, clergy, and others may be compassionate and sympathetic, many have no direct experience with suicide. They may even possess an inherent bias toward those who take their lives, and by extension project that bias onto loss survivors.