September is suicide prevention awareness month and we post this on suicide prevention awareness day, 10 September. This is a topic that we do not write about with a light heart. In Australia, approximately eight individuals pass from suicide each day leaving behind family and friends to navigate the waters of life after the sudden loss. September is a time to raise awareness and share resources to shed a light on a subject that is generally taboo and stigmatised.
Grief is an expected response to losing someone however; often when that loss in the family is by suicide, bereavement can get complex with a combination of guilt, blame and confusion. A range of emotions is common and healthy. There is no right or wrong way to ever process a loss. The way you act during the difficult time is perfectly normal for your body’s healing process.
There are many suicide bereavement support groups and sharing your experiences with others who have gone through a similar experience is a way that is helpful to numerous individuals. These groups can be a wonderful way to connect to people who understand the same or similar questions you have about the situation and your feelings along with the assistance of a professional there to guide the group. The Internet is a wonderful resource for finding one of these in your area.
It is more important than ever to look after yourself after a loss. Taking time out of your day to do something you enjoy and not feel guilty about it – even if you don’t feel like doing it at the time – is something that, with time, will be helpful with getting back into a regular routine.
Staying connected with your personal support group, if that’s friends or family or a professional it can be a great sense of comfort knowing that despite any feeling of ‘alone’, you are not.
It’s okay to talk about the deceased. Remembering them and honouring them is a wonderful way to keep their memory alive. Sharing pictures, passing along their favourite music, along with other activities is they enjoyed can create traditions that will allow other family members, who may never have met them, to remember the deceased also.
Ensuring that you stay active during this time is important. Avoiding substances like drugs and alcohol during the time of mourning is shown to improve the process due to its depressive side effects. Eating well, exercising, and sleep are three important ways to avoid falling into a slump. While it is often hard to keep a positive mind set about mundane tasks during this time, each accomplishment is one to be celebrated and in time, it will feel like second nature.
If you know someone who has suffered a loss in their family through suicide it can be hard to know how to be there for them. In this case, it is important to not ask “why”, or if there was anything that could have been done to avoid the situation, know that it is okay to talk about the deceased and mention their name if the bereaved is okay with it, include the bereaved in activities even if they may not want to participate.
When a loss like this happens to a family there are so many ways that it can affect the dynamic. Try not to look at this as necessarily a negative thing despite the circumstances, building a new dynamic within a family can be a good thing and making new traditions to remember and keep the conversation going about what has happened to bring awareness to mental health.