You are not alone…if you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1.800.273.8255

The Aftermath

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.

Moving Forward Through Grief…Part 2

SUPPORT GROUPS. One thing that many people experience after the loss of a loved one is a feeling of isolation. This feeling is even more common after a loss by suicide than one due to accident or illness. Suicide is difficult to discuss for many people and they find themselves literally at a loss for words that can be comforting or encouraging.

Walter and I didn’t discover the support group experience until about six weeks after Michelle’s death. We found it to be one of the most healing experiences we have had. It was a safe environment in which to speak about our personal experiences related to Michelle’s death and its aftermath. The important element for us, as suicide loss survivors, is to be in a group with other survivors. As Walter said in his recent post, “to lose a loved one to suicide is like no other loss in life.”

As time passed, we began attending a second group. Each of these groups meets twice a month. We grew in confidence in dealing with our emotions and found that we were able to help others in the same way. Our continued attendance in these groups was motivated as much by our desire to help others as it was to help ourselves.

Two things I think are helpful: First, find a group where you feel comfortable, where you feel safe in disclosing your feelings. Second, try to be consistent in your attendance, not only for your benefit but for the benefit of others in the group who count on seeing you and hearing your story.

Please refer to the “Support Groups” page here on our website, To Save Just One, for any group that may be ongoing in your area, as well as new groups that may be starting.

Moving Forward Through Grief…Part 1 of 4

Losing a loved one to suicide is the beginning of a long process of grief. My purpose in this series is to share with you a few things that have been helpful to me in these almost 12 months since we lost our daughter Michelle to suicide.

JOURNALING. I have kept various journals over the years, although somewhat sporadically. The day I got the news about Michelle, I began having a dialogue with her in my mind. As I sat down to write about our RV experiences (we became full-time RVers two years ago), I found myself speaking to her through my pen as if I were writing a letter to her. I wrote about the daily activities of our family and asked her some of the many questions I had on my mind about her death. In some way, verbalizing these thoughts help me my process my grief.

As time passed, I found myself returning to my more “normal” way of journaling. But still I updated her on the progress her daughters were making or how Walter and I were dealing with our feelings about losing her. Part of the satisfaction I received from this is that it kept her memory alive in my heart in a personal way.

I know that the act of suicide ended Michelle’s pain; I wanted her to know that although my heart was broken, I was taking positive steps to more forward in the grief process and that she would always remain a vital part of my life.

To lose a loved one to suicide is like no other loss in life.

Any loss is significant, yet the unexpected tragedy of suicide shocks the system.  It was that way for us.  The gut-wrenching reality that our beloved daughter made a decision to end her life and that we couldn’t prevent her action made us feel powerless and heartbroken.  Michelle was 47 years old when she died, but she was still our child.

                Our daughter reminded us by her death why she mattered to so many people in her life.  She had an infectious and radiant smile.  Many people throughout her life commented on the fact that she   was a truly genuine and authentic person.  Throughout her formative years she loved to sing.  I remember hearing her belt out tunes in the shower.  Little would we know she would go on to study music, eventually graduating from North Texas University with a degree in voice performance.  Her coloratura voice reflected a woman who expressed herself in song.  Who would have imagined singing in the shower would lead to Italian opera?

                Michelle loved animals, especially dogs.  She rescued every one of her pets and when Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston, she spent hundreds of hours at NRG Stadium reuniting people with their lost dogs.  I believe it was particularly hurtful to her that so many owners chose not to take their pets back, perhaps because they could not, or because they were a burden.  Michelle, in her mind, may have felt as lost as those animals.