A Suicide in the Family: Supporting Those Left Behind

A Suicide in the Family: Supporting Those Left Behind

Posted by Adam Cook - Addiction Hub on 6th Oct 2016


The suicide of a loved one is something that shakes a person’s foundation. The effect a suicide has on the family is usually different from death by other circumstances. Knowing how to support those in grief is a critical skill as suicide in the family leaves other family members at a higher risk for attempting suicide themselves.

Though death happens all the time and loved ones learn to move on, suicide is different. Family members, friends, and other loved ones of suicide victims often need additional support from their friends and extended family to cope with their loss. Here are a few important things to know about how to best support someone who has lost a loved one to suicide.

Many Will Blame Themselves

Suicide is a conscious effort on the part of a depressed person to end their own life. Other forms of death are tragic, accidental, or natural and expected. These are much easier to recover from as there was likely nothing their loved ones could have done to stop it. Suicide, on the other hand, tends to reflect that someone did not get the help they need, leading family to blame themselves for what they view as a preventable death.

It is important for loved ones to know that they are not to blame. Their deceased loved one needed help far beyond what a family member could offer. While some suicidal people can be stopped with the help of a support network and open discussions, many require the assistance of a psychologist for an underlying problem such as addiction or depression. The circumstances were likely far from the family’s control.

Suicide is a Taboo Topic

Having people to talk to is very important for grieving loved ones. People who bottle things up experience greater difficulty as a result of pent up grief and will likely require counseling if they continue the behavior for long enough. Suicide, however, is one of those things no one feels comfortable discussing. The taboo that comes along with mental health and, by extension, suicide, makes open communication difficult for those in grief.

If you know someone who has lost a loved one to suicide, it is important that you familiarize yourself with things you should and shouldn’t say as well as preparing yourself to discuss suicide. Being available to talk is one of the simplest yet most helpful things you can do.

Withdrawal is Common

Withdrawal as a result of depression is a common reaction to the suicide of a loved one. However, withdrawal is also a dangerous thing to do. Lack of social interaction worsens depression, placing loved ones in danger for suicide themselves. Keeping family members connected, communicating, and interacting is key in recovery for suicide survivors.

Keeping someone from withdrawing is a delicate task. You don’t want to stress them out further with overly stimulating environments, but you also don’t want to make everything about their loss. Find something enjoyable but laid back. Activities like yoga are a good way to keep stress levels low, focus on something outside the loss, and even help them learn to cope.

Supporting the family of a suicide victim can be difficult, particularly in a society where suicide is taboo. It is important that you prepare yourself to discuss potentially uncomfortable topics. Open conversation is one of the best ways you can be supportive. You should work to prevent withdrawal by fostering communication and encouraging a survivor to participate in relaxing activities. Though this period will be difficult, it is important to remember that overcoming the feelings of tremendous grief following a loved one’s suicide is possible with help and support.

Adam started after losing a friend to substance abuse and suicide. He

is interested in helping people find the necessary resources to save their lives from addiction. 

Image via Pixabay by nhattienle94


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