man in support group

Overcoming a suicide bereavement 

How to live positively after losing a loved one to suicide

Losing a loved one to suicide can cause complex and particularly distressing emotions. Intense feelings of loss and grief may be added to by difficult and sometimes unanswerable questions like ‘Why did they do this?’, ‘Why didn’t I notice?’ or ‘What if?’

The people who are left behind, usually those who were closest to the person, may search for answers to these questions for the rest of their life. This adds pressure onto a grieving person, making it difficult for them to rebuild their life.

There is no right or wrong way to grieve a bereavement, but we want you to know that you can still find happiness and positivity, no matter how dark your world might seem.

We spoke to somebody from the Dudley Borough who agreed to share their bereavement with us, in the hope that their experiences might help someone in need.

Bereaved by suicide

In September 2015, I received a message from my husband telling me that he loved me. When I arrived home later that day, I found him dead. For me, his death really was that sudden and unexpected.

My husband did not have a history of mental illness, so I was confused and at a loss as to why he would have taken his life. Why were there no signs or warnings? How could I not have known?

 

These questions consumed me, making even the simplest tasks seem impossible. I couldn’t even look past my next breath to plan my days. I was completely detached and numbed by my loss.

 

Managing grief

At his funeral, I watched as his loved ones and relatives cried and prayed, unmoved by their emotions. I did not want to be numb, detached or emotionless. I wanted to start functioning and living my life again. I felt like I owed this to myself.

As the months and years passed, I accepted that the cause of his death was suicide, as it was the only real explanation. However, I still had many unanswered questions. Living was a struggle.

As well as my own struggles, I had to deal with the blame from others. This upset me.

People placed the responsibility for his death on my shoulders, believing that my lack of awareness in his wellbeing meant I was unable to prevent it. Deep down I knew that this was their way of grieving, so I didn’t retaliate or blame them for how they felt.

All I wanted was peace for everyone who was struggling with their grief. Most of all for me. I knew that I wouldn’t get my old life back, the life I built with my husband.

 

Asking for help

I wanted to rebuild my life and rediscover who I was and in order to regain some control, I sought professional help. I attended counselling and CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) sessions for three months which helped me communicate my thoughts and regain my grip on reality.

Before long, it was my birthday. On a day when I should be celebrating, be thankful or at least be enjoying myself, I was filled with loss, despair and felt very much alone. I decided to do some research into suicide. I did this when my husband passed, but because I didn’t believe that he was capable of suicide, I guess the information didn’t really stick.

But having accepted suicide as the cause of his death, I started to understand.

 

What I have learnt about suicide

I visited websites, read articles and attended seminars. I did everything I could to better understand what drove my husband to take his own life.  What I discovered is that everyone’s reasons for thinking or acting upon suicide is unique. No one attempts or dies by suicide because they want to die. Suicide is a desperate act to escape from the intolerable pain, mental anguish or mental torture. This is when suicide becomes a viable option. The mind of a suicidal person is constricted in its ability to see options and mistakenly only sees two options; continue to suffer or die.

Suicide remains the leading cause of death in men below the age of 45, with men five times more likely to take their own life than women. Suicide is also more common than people realise, for example in Dudley approximately one person dies by suicide every fortnight.

 

Some questions can’t be answered

Bereavement by suicide leaves loved ones with lots of extreme and complex emotions and questions. For years I questioned how I was unable to stop him, or to recognise his struggles. But the reality is, I couldn’t have known. I couldn’t have known because he didn’t want me to know. No amount of thinking and overthinking was going to change the outcome. The sooner I came to peace with this, the sooner I was able to regain control of my life and continue to live positively.

 

Don’t blame

I do not believe that people who want to die by suicide want to die. I do not believe they are selfish, cowards or guilty of a sin. I believe that situations or scenarios can affect people completely differently and so we should not blame or demonise people who take an action that is often a last resort. In order to continue living positively, I needed to be at peace with my bereavement, and I do not believe that could have been achieved by blaming or shaming.

 

Get help if you need it

My bereavement crippled me, consuming every thought and action. I became numb, detached and disinterested. I decided that I couldn’t go on for the rest of my life feeling this way and I sought professional help. I would advise anybody who is going through a struggle and can’t find a way out to seek help via your GP or speak to a trusted person. There are also many support organisations out there with great advice for anyone struggling with their bereavement such as Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide

 

Our life goes on

In my experience, the pain doesn’t go away. As difficult as it is, you learn how to work through your pain, rebuild your life around it, and continue to try and live positively. It is not easy. Over the last few years, I have spent a great deal of my time fundraising for those affected by suicide, raising awareness on the prevention of suicide and trying to change the public perception of it.

In our attempt to remove the stigma and improve the way we talk and think about suicide, my amazing family, friends and I began fundraising for two suicide prevention charities, PAPYRUS and Maytree. It hasn’t been easy, but it has been worthwhile. Everyone’s journey with bereavement is different and there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Helping raise awareness on the prevention of suicide was a part of my bereavement journey and a way of remembering my husband.