There will be two very important articles to read about what to say and do and what not say and do to suicide loss survivors following my words and thoughts.
These are my thoughts I have felt before my many numerous suicide attempts and when I am plagued by the horrific thoughts of suicide. I hope it can give some insights to those who are suicide loss survivors. These are my thoughts, but are similar to many other suicide attempt survivors and those having suicidal thoughts I have heard and read before. It is never exactly the same for anyone, but there are usually many similarities and parallels. I hope it can shed some light of what suicide and suicidality is and how a person with severe suicidal thoughts is thinking. I pray it will help someone in some way.
I am sorry my words may be hard to read, but suicide is beyond difficult and we must speak the truth of what it truly is.
“When a person becomes suicidal everything in their life has become irrelevant to them. Nothing has meaning or is applicable to life and living. They feel like they are already dead and their constant thoughts become consumed and overwhelmed with thoughts of death. Death is the only thing that seems relevant and real to them. It is all they know at that point in their lives. They do not want to hurt anyone, but they cannot live with the extreme internal deep dark blackness of nothingness, the pain of deep sorrow, shame, loneliness, despair and feelings of nothingness any longer. They feel there is no other answer or way to relieve their constant pain that bipolar disorder, severe depression and mental illness has caused them and what it has done to their lives. They may not be able to forgive themselves for the life they have lived and the pain they feel they have already caused the many people they love very much. They feel people would be better off without them. Their brain is so broken at the time that there is no more rational thinking inside their sick and diseased brains. So they… die by suicide.” ~Sue Walz
I am so sorry for your loss.
Asking painful personal questions:
- “Why do you think he did this?”
- “How did she do it?”
- “Did she leave a note?”
- “Did you have to clean up?”
It is human nature to be curious, but probing questions about the intimate details of the suicide are invasive and hurtful. Those who genuinely care about grieving persons should let them decide when and how much they want to tell about their loved one’s death.
- “Did you see this coming?”
- “What is going on in your family? This sounds hereditary.”
- “Probably [something the survivor did] is what sent him over the edge.”
To suggest that any of the people left behind by a suicide contributed to that death in any way is cruel. Suicide survivors almost universally struggle with thoughts like, “If I had only [fill in the blank], my loved one might still be alive.”
The last thing a person suffering suicide grief needs is a statement implying guilt on their part, or that they or their family is defective.
Experts estimate that 90 percent of people who die by suicide suffer from a mental illness, whether diagnosed or not. It’s no more appropriate to assign blame for a death from mental illness than it would be to look for blame in a death from another disease.
Saying negative things about the person who died:
- “What a selfish thing to do.”
- “She chose to leave you.”
- “It’s too bad his faith wasn’t strong enough.”
Although anger toward the one who died is often part of the grieving process, it is never appropriate to say negative things about the deceased to the grieving family. Any comment that implies suicide was a choice, rational or not, lacks understanding. A person who dies by suicide sees death as the only alternative to unbearable torment — not as a “choice.”
Suggesting that a person in such psychological pain was trying to hurt those left behind shows a profound lack of compassion and understanding of mental illness.
If there was one change I could make in the way we talk about suicide, it would be to remove the word COMMITTED from the usual vocabulary.
The word “committed” invokes language usually reserved for crimes. Most survivors prefer saying “died by suicide,” to honor their loved one’s illness in a more appropriate way.
As for comments inferring the person who died by suicide was weak in faith, it’s important to realize many devout Christians suffer from mental illness.
No one would dream of saying to a diabetic, “If you prayed harder, you wouldn’t have high blood sugar.” But it’s amazing how often Christians at least suggest to those suffering from mental disorders that a stronger faith will “cure” them.
Remember how the apostle Paul struggled with the “thorn in his side”? God did not heal him, but rather offered grace.
What to say:
We’ve been talking about what not to say; let’s end with what to say. I also asked suicide loss survivors what were the most helpful things people said (or that they wish they’d said) after the loss. Here is a sample of those comments.
- “Tell me a good memory you have of my loved one.”
- “I can’t imagine how much pain you’re in. We hurt, too, because we loved him.”
- “I love you, and my prayers are with you.”
- “What a terrible loss for your family.”
- “The best thing someone could have said was NOTHING!”
- “He had value; he will be missed; he was a good person.”
- “Focus on the way they lived and loved, not the way they died.”
- “How can I help you today?” (Following through with errands, grocery shopping, cleaning, going to church with them, etc.)
- “I am so sorry for your loss. Words fail.”
- “I’m here.”
And even better, many of the survivors I surveyed mentioned that the best reaction was not words at all, but a hug.
They talked about being comforted by the caring presence of friends, and the assurance that others were praying for them.
The best advice to anyone who wants to comfort a suicide loss survivor is: “Show up, let them see you care, and respect the griever’s right to feel bad for a while (guilt, anger, sadness, etc.).
Too many survivors reported “friends” who avoided them altogether after their loved ones’ suicides rather than to risk saying the wrong thing. Please don’t do that, because that hurts most of all.
“Within every furrow of grief lies a seed of healing.” ~Susan Lenzkes © ‘93
September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month
I am a numerous suicide attempt survivor. Praise God, I am still alive today.
I am a Mental illness advocate and it is my passion to educate about mental illness, increase awareness about mental illness, reduce the stigma of mental illness and the stigma associated with suicide and I want to and must reduce the alarmingly increasing rate of suicides around the world today.
I continue to make a daily post about suicide everyday throughout the month of September for Suicide Prevention month. This is post #23 and if you have missed my previous ones, please check them out on my blog. Also, continue looking on my blog for more daily posts about suicide for the rest of September.
We must always remember the too many beautiful, precious lives lost to suicide every day. We must never forget these wonderful people and keep them alive by their memories and their stories.
Always remember that their lives were and are important and that their lives mattered. They made a difference in the lives of many and impacted the world in some and many beneficial ways. The many people who died by suicide mattered and always will.
Remember their names and speak to families about them. Do not be afraid. That is what the families want. They want to remember their loved ones and they want other people to remember them in positive ways. Talk to people and love them with fond memories.
Honor the lives lost always and forever.
We all need to do our part and do MORE. The first steps are accepting and understanding others with kindness, compassion and love. We all need to educate and learn more about mental illness and suicide and suicide prevention. Start the dialog and be a voice.
We must all make our voices heard very loud and strong about mental illness, mental illness stigma and suicide prevention. It is critical. It is crucial. Each life is priceless. We must prevent suicides and save lives.
Please know you are loved and you all matter and you make a positive difference in this world every day.
God bless you all always and forever…
Love and hugs, Sue