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25 Tips for Survivors of Suicide Loss

I know some of you find this site, and this post, after searching the terms, “Suicide Tips” on the Internet.

STOP & READ THIS!

Please READ THIS and THIS before taking any action to injure yourself. 

I lost two friends to suicide. I know what it is like to be heartbroken from loss. I also was once very depressed and suicidal. I spent years wanting to die. This blog post was written to help people who lost a loved one to suicide. You will find supportive information for those in mourning. You will not find tips on how to kill yourself. I BEG YOU TO GET HELP! You may think no one cares about you, but I do.  I care!

Update Fall 2013

For a free download of my e-book, Suicide Sucks, a resource for survivors of suicide loss, click here.

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SOS – Survivors of Suicide (Loss)

In the last week, I’ve spoken with a few fellow survivors of suicide. A fellow survivor named Cathy lost her boyfriend a mere three weeks ago. My heart goes out to you, Cathy. You are not alone.

In an effort to reach out and help Cathy (and others),  I decided it was time to post a list specifically geared to help survivors of suicide.

The term SOS explained

For those of you not familiar with the term survivor of suicide – let me explain the meaning. First, I will explain what the phrase does not mean.  Survivor of suicide is not used to describe a person who attempts suicide but does not complete the act. Rather, the term describes loved ones left behind to mourn after the tragedy of suicide.

In my article, Suicide: Part 1 – Facts & Warning Signs, I stated “It is estimated that each suicide intimately affects at least 6 other people (the Survivors of Suicide) and up to 100 people that is anywhere between 200,000 and 3 million American affected each year.”

Suicide changes millions of lives. MILLIONS of lives…

Meet Iris Bolton

Iris lost her son to suicide in 1977. She has been instrumental in pioneering a counseling movement to support bereaved families after a death by suicide. Iris is Director Emeritus at The Link Counseling Center in Georgia, she earned a Master’s degree in suicidology, wrote a book called My Son…My Son: A Guide to Healing After Death, Loss, or Suicide (I just received a copy of this book in the mail yesterday) and is the author of the list titled 25 Tips for Survivors of Suicide.

Even though I am a survivor of suicide, Iris has many more years of experience and education relating to this issue. I felt her list would offer the most insight and wisdom to survivors.

I have not had the opportunity to meet Iris, although she kindly allowed us to publish her Tips for Survivors of Suicide here at Giggle On.

Thank you Iris for reaching out to help a fellow survivor like me and for allowing me to publish your list for the benefit of others. I hope to have the opportunity to meet you in person!

25 Tips for Survivors of Suicide

  • Know you can survive. You may not think so, but you can.
  • Struggle with “why” it happened until you no longer need to know “why” or until you are satisfied with partial answers.
  • Know you may feel overwhelmed by the intensity of your feelings but all your feelings are normal.
  • Anger, guilt, confusion, forgetfulness are common responses. You are not crazy-you are in mourning.
  • Be aware you may feel appropriate anger at the person, at the world, at God, at yourself.
  • You may feel guilty for what you think you did or did not do.
  • Having suicidal thoughts is common. It does not mean that you will act on those thoughts.
  • Remember to take one moment or one day at a time.
  • Find a good listener with whom to share. Call someone if you need to talk.
  • Don’t be afraid to cry. Tears are healing.
  • Give yourself time to heal.
  • Remember the choice was not yours. No one is the sole influence in another’s life.
  • Expect setbacks. Don’t panic if emotions return like a tidal wave. You may only be experiencing a remnant of grief, an unfinished piece.
  • Try to put off major decisions.
  • Give yourself permission to get professional help.
  • Be aware of the pain of your family and friends.
  • Be patient with yourself and with others who may not understand.
  • Set your own limits and learn to say no.
  • Steer clear of people who want to tell you what or how to feel.
  • Know that there are support groups, which can be helpful, such as The Compassionate Friends.
  • Call on your personal faith to help you through.
  • It is common to experience physical reactions to your grief; i.e. headaches, loss of appetite, inability to sleep, etc.
  • The willingness to laugh with others and at yourself is healing. [Giggle On!]
  • Wear out your questions, anger, guilt, or other feelings until you can let them go.
  • Know that you will never be the same again, but you can survive and go beyond just surviving.

SOS Meetings in Delaware

The Mental Health Association of Delaware sponsors SOS (Survivor’s of Suicide) meetings in the state.

SOS Meetings outside of Delaware

Suicide Prevention Action Network Suicide Survivor’s Page

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Support Group Page

American Association of Suicidology Suicide Survivor’s Page

Remember, Don’t Give Up! Find a Way to Giggle On!

Related articles:

Survivor Q & A: Annie DiMattia

Survivor Q & A: Jayla Boire

Survivor Q & A: Kelli Karlton

Survivor Q & A: Erica Volkman

Walk to beat depression and suicide

Middle Aged-Women Drive Suicide Risk

Suicide Survivor’s Guilt

When a loss becomes a gain

How to Help Suicidal People

Wilmington’s Out of the Darkness Walk

Comments

  1. It’s great that you’re writing about this and helping to raise awareness. I had never heard the term Survivor of Suicide until the other day when a woman was speaking to the parents group at our school about how her son is still healing after finding his best friend after he hung himself. Her son is still a wreck 6 years later, and it did shock me how this one event was so far reaching in how many people it affected and for how long.

    Tina Ts last blog post..Men and Their Mamas

    • Thanks Tina. Can you tell me more about the woman that spoke to the parent’s group at your school? Was she affiliated with a particular group? Suicide reeks havoc on so many lives and the pain cuts deep, so very deep. I would love to delve more into how children deal with grief. This issue keeps popping up for me in so many areas of my life. Thanks for the comment and feel free to forward this post to any of the other parent’s in your group.

  2. Thank you so much for sending the email about your site. My son’s death will be 3 years this May and I swear it has gotten harder.

    Your site is great and I will come back!

    Thanks

    • @ Lea – Your continued support for my mission makes my soul sing.

      @ Anna – I do believing in asking and I believe in receiving the goodness God has to offer all of us. We all have deep love and blessing inside us. Let’s shine happiness, spread laughter, bask in the sun of joy and enjoy this great ride we have called life.

      @ Susan – Thank you for offering to re-post my article on your site. It is my great honor. I’ll tell my friend Dave you like the drawf (that’s kinda how I look when I get mad, except, I don’t have all that facial hair. *laughing*) Be good to yourself girl – you’re fabulous and don’t forget it! ;-)

      @ Peggy – I am pleased you welcomed my email. The grief recovery road is long. We never forget. We get through it. I hope you enjoy the site, please feel free to stay a while – and thanks so much for stopping by. I look forward to talking with you more.

  3. It’s been a long road for me and many others since my beloved friend took his life in 2001. Reading this post and Iris’s list brought me back to so many moments during that time, when each of us would endure a new emotion or thought during our individual healing processes.

    Everyone grieves differently. I think it’s SO important to realize and ACCEPT that fact.

    The most important thing is to simply allow yourself the time to heal, and find the support people who will help you through it. Don’t surpress, and DON’T stop talking about it.
    Your life surely WILL be changed forever. But the best (and perhaps strangest) truth is that you can find the “dopeness” in the “wackness” that life slides you.

    As Niki Sixx says, “It took a funeral to make me feel alive”….and that it did for me…and I will be grateful and will celebrate my friend all the remaining days of my life.

    Thanks, Christa & Iris. Excellent work here.

    • @ Annie – Allowing yourself the time to heal – YES – brilliantly said. I appreciate your thoughts and comments on this post – I know it is painful dredging up these emotions and recounting the loss but your strength to SHARE your feelings with us is very powerful and so helpful. THANK YOU!

      It also took a funeral to make me feel alive – kudos to you for being grateful and recognizing the preciousness in this life. Suicide was the end of your friend’s life and Jim’s life but in their loss, we gained great understanding and now we stand as Ambassadors for Life.

      Cheers to you my fellow Ambassador! Grab your Whoopie cushion and let’s Giggle On! into the sunset. Woo hoooo

  4. Thanks, Christa!

    I’m almost ashamed to admit to you (and everyone else on here) that I don’t own a Whoopie Cushion….however, after writing my post, I DID purchase myself a FABULOUS new Giggle On THONG, a magnet, and a doggie-tee shirt for Miss Gabbilicious.

    …now she’ll be even MORE Gabbilicious when we’re on our walkies (and so will I, but in a way more secret kinda way!) wooo-HOOOO!!!! :)

  5. Hi Christa,

    Glad to see that you posted Iris Bolton’s 25 Tips. My favorite is the last one: “Know that you will never be the same again, but you can survive and go beyond just surviving.” This offers so much more hope and possibility than the commonly quoted phrase: “You never get over it.”

    As a clinician who works with survivors, I have the privilege of witnessing the courage and accomplishments of the survivor journey. If it were not for that, it would be hard to do this work.

    In the beginning, survivors experience a nightmarish pain, unlike anything they ever knew existed. Many fear the pain will never end and that they now have no future, other than one of agonizing pain. It is very important to know that this initial pain does diminish with time, and that people do go on eventually, to experience happy, meaningful and contributory lives. This does not happen easily or quickly, but it does happen. There is a “sacred gift” or “wisdom” that accompanies such loss … hard-won and expensive … but empowering to those who choose to make a difference.

  6. Two years ago, one of my youngest brothers committed suicide by jumping off a bridge; he was 25. That day, that single event scarred me for life and I truly never thought the day would come when I could be happy again and not feel guilty for moving on.

    My healing has been possible due to many factors, which I’m gladly about to list.

    Try them all, or as many as you need to… find new ones, just DON’T GIVE UP, because there is happiness after a loved one’s suicide…I promise! Some of the things which were helpful for me: therapy (grief counseling), antidepressants, reading on suicide and surviving it, an online support group (www.survivorsofsuicide.com), having 3 kids who depend on me, talking about my brother’s suicide openly, prayer.

    Be strong, have faith and be proactive… there is light at the end of this tunnel.

  7. Jackie,
    I am saddened to read about your brother’s suicide. I’m so sorry. I admire your courage and desire to continue on, and even more, to be so open about the suicide.
    You are so right with your list of healing factors.
    Thanks for sharing them, and for sharing your story!

  8. I love the 25 tips for survivors. ALL so true.

    The most important point for me was to “Set your own limits and learn to say no.”

    I was in “survival mode” after the loss and needed to learn to just take care of myself. Once I realized that I needed to put myself first and concentrate on that, I pampered myself in all of my free time. I set limits for what I could and could not take on. If I wanted to lay on the couch and not move that is what I did. I took baths with candles, I got lost in TV shows, and of course, I cried and cried.

    Another hard one for me was “Be patient with yourself and with others who may not understand.” My boss at the time said to me only three months after the loss, that I needed to “Get over it sometime”. It was hard to understand how someone could possibly utter those words. I still do not understand, BUT, they simply had not been through what I was experiencing.

    Its hard for the people closest to a suicide survivor to know what to say or do to help. All you want is to have your loved one back, and nothing anyone is going to say or do will make that happen. I tried to let the people closest to me know that its okay that they have nothing to say. I am glad they are there to listen and that is really all I needed.

    Thanks Christa, You site is wonderful and so right on! Keep up the good work!!!

  9. It will be 2 years on May 7, 2009 that my dad has been dead from shooting himself in the head he was only 54. Before today I did not know about this website but I was reading the News Journal today and I decided to take a look. My heart still hurts and sometimes I just want to cry all day but it is gettin better I still have a ways to go. thank you for the website

  10. Dear Paul,
    I am sorry to read about your loss. I’m sure that there are days when you have a hard time.
    There is a light at the end of this tunnel, though, and please know that you’re not alone here.
    Christa has done amazing things with her website here. I’m really glad you found a positive place to come for excellent resources, support and a little humor when you need it! I’ve also been very grateful that she continues to do this in her “spare time”!
    Be well, Paul.

    Annies last blog post..Cherry Danish

  11. My friend saved this article for me . I am glad she did. I had a brother commit suicide four months ago and now another brother who has been in rehab from alcoholism is missing. My mother and my two other brothers fear the worse. It is like groundhog day. We have all tried to come to terms with our brothers death four months ago, and now to have these feeling surface all over again. My therapist tells me to look at what you have in your life and see the joy. It will be hard.

  12. Thanks for the list Christa. They are things that we think we should know how to do, but completely forget when we are in the thick of a setback. You have helped me gain some perspective today!
    xoxox
    Sunny

  13. I LOST MY SISTER TO “SUICIDE” IN 1981

    HOWEVER…THERE ARE TWO KINDS OF SUICIDE WHICH NEEDS TO BE ADDRESSED HERE..TRUST ME I KNOW FIRST HAND.

    ONE IS SUICIDE.

    THE OTHER IS PRESCRIPTION DRUG INDUCED SUICIDE!

    CONCEALED SIDE EFFECTS KILLED MY SISTER.
    DECADES IN THE DARK MY FAMILY WAS AND STILL OTHER FAMILIES ARE. PLEASE READ MY STORY.

    http://www.Drugawareness.org/recentcases/suspicious-suicide-of-sister

    http://www.youtube.com/user/3Decadesago

    listen to the first video. 1991.
    My sister and many others lost their lives even before this year surfaced.
    seeking justice for all.

    please all send me your coments!!
    THE YEARS 1950′S-1980′S ESPECIALLY WENT UNLINKED TO THESE PRESCRIPTION DRUGS. IF YOU LOST A LOVED ONE TO SUICIDE DURING THESE YEARS..YOU TOO MAY HAVE YOUR ANSWERS TO WHY!

    Lisa from Ny

    • Lisa:

      Thank you for contacting me, commenting on the post and forwarding the video. Coming from someone who was medicated for years, I am also convinced many of the medications I was prescribed led to suicidal thoughts and tendencies.

      I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your sister, Lori, to suicide. I commend your determination to honor her memory and raise awareness about the dangers surrounding RX drugs, children and violence.

      With their losses (your sister and my friends) we learn, we grow and most importantly, we learn to live the best lives we can, lives filled with laughter. :-)

  14. My only child committed suicide in February 2009. I am still lost without him. The pain is only getting worse, not better, and I worry what life has in store for me in the years to come. I am in therapy & on meds but was fired from my teaching job in May after the principal told me he thought I was acting funny – ya think! Nothing is helping and I’ve tried it all. I will never kill myself because that is the ultimate selfish act, but I am concerned that my sanity is gone forever. Comments?

    • Dear Cliff’s Mom: I am so very sorry to hear of your son’s suicide.

      Your sanity is not gone forever! What I’ve learned is we can choose to allow these horrible painful events to swallow us up and eat us whole or we can take the opportunity after grief and loss to assess our own lives and how we hope to live to the fullest. Trust me, I know this is not an easy task.

      I am not a mom and cannot speak from that platform but I can tell you this, it’s almost 5 years since my first friend Jim died by suicide and I am no longer consumed with guilt or sadness about his passing. I HIGHLY recommend Iris Bolton’s book, My Son, My Son, to you. Iris also lost a son. I am not a therapist but I would suggest if you are not already seeing a counselor with experience helping people deal with grief caused by suicide, you may want to look into that. Just a thought.

      Suicide is ugly, painful and fiercely destructive. It many ways it ruptures the foundation of our lives. However, it is my belief through experience that we can rebuilt that foundation, make it stronger and build many rooms to house all the joyful possibilities life has in store for us.

      When my first friend died, people said to me “Time Heals”. Hearing that phrase made me livid! How could anyone say such a thing? They did not feel the pain in my heart. That said, as time moved on I learned that “they” were right. You will never forget your son. The love you shared will never die. Love lives on forever. Time will help if you allow it.

      In closing I would like you to know you are not alone. If you have not had the opportunity to reach out to other mothers who have lost sons to suicide, I encourage you to do so. I found the sharing helps the healing.

      I will keep you and all the mom’s out there in my prayers. I’m honored you stopped by…

      Warmly,
      Christa

  15. Dear Cliffs mom,
    I’m deeply sorry for your loss. It’s a loss that no mother should ever have to bare. Meds and therapy are the all fine, but the love and support from fellow survivors will also help you to heal and move forward – yet never forgetting. My site is http://www.suicidesurvivorslink.com and it has a link to a facebook site I do also with 677+ fellow survivors on it that can help you in your road to healing. I lost my dad 1/6/08 to suicide, so I know the pain you are carrying around each day. One day at a time!
    Fondly, Kelli

  16. Thanks to those of you that responded to my post. I have a therapy session this afternoon but it just doesn’t feel “right” anymore & I’m not sure what has changed. I have also started a support group, “Cliff’s Haven”, a name that God gave me when He planted this idea in my head and it is going well. Soooo, I am trying to do positive things but the guilt smothers me every moment of every day.

  17. I don’t know if it’s divine intervention or not but this site appeared when I needed it the most. I cannot get over my ex lover/best friend committing suicide a few months ago. I feel responsible but I know, rationally, that I’m experiencing something that others know all too well. I just feel like my life has been destroyed and I miss him so very much. It’s like when Spring arrived that this new bout of grief suffocated me. A new season without him- it’s hell on earth. I want to thank you for giving me hope that eventually I will be able to move past this initial grief and learn to celebrate his life and not condemn my own.

    • @Hannah – I’m glad you found the site. I am sorry to hear about the loss of your best friend to suicide. I spent a long time feeling guilty and condemning myself for things I did and didn’t do…but that was all part of the healing process. Do I still feel guilty, cry and express anger? Yes, absolutely. But these feelings no longer consume me. Thank you for thanking me. My message might not reach thousands but if it reaches just one person in need, YOU…that is what really counts. If you need me, I’m here. Enjoy life Hannah…your friend would want you to do that. Plant something in his honor and watch it grow. Life is a cycle of beginnings and endings and each day we have the chance to start again. Start new today. Be good to yourself.

  18. Sometimes I question the internet and what is posted? Honestly the internet used to be like a different place, except that recently it seems to have become better and of the reason for it to be improving are blogs like this.

  19. I lost my son due to suicide, he was only 19 years old.

    For me and my family and his friends, we have our own support group and celebrate my son’s life every day.

    Suicide is a mental illness and should not be considered a taboo subject. We choose to talk lots, even when it is painful to talk about him, laugh at the stories, even when it brings back feelings of missing him , we celebrate his birthday as it is his birth into this life that we want to remember, not his departing.

    Focus on what we can change like getting rid of the stigma around the subject of suicide by talking lots, being proud of the life we had and still have with him though it is different, it hasn’t ended. We try not dwell on what we can’t control because it will only destroy us and be kind and understanding to ourselves and patient with the others that are trying to help.

    Everything we do, affects someone else, suicide survivors can attest to that. Every person we touch in a positive way, opens the door to understanding. We may be only a few voices, but we can make a difference . Who knows, maybe some day suicides will deminish greatly because people won’t be afraid to ask for help and won’t be treated differently for it. I pray for that every day.

    • @Sherrie – I am sorry to learn you lost your son to suicide. Thank you for stopping by my site to share your thoughts and feelings in an effort to help other survivors heal.

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