Suicide Grief

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Publicity regarding suicide has been a two-edged sword with both positive and negative influences – informing the community of the problem but generating suicides in its wake.

However, having spoken to many people who have had suicide in their family – they express the need to have open and accurate information for those affected by the suicide,

WHY do so many end their lives by their own hand?

We can look at four distinct groups with their own special needs when trying to answer this question.

YOUNG PEOPLE – Perhaps from a feeling of uselessness having never or rarely worked, believe there is nothing to live for. At the other end of the spectrum is the young person feeling pressured to achieve to repay parental “investment”

ADULTS 25-45 YEARS – More males than females take their lives in this group. Despondency arising from financial and marital issues seems to dominate.

MIDDLE AGED PERSONS – Pressures arising from work, mid life searching and family issues contribute to the cause.

ELDERLY PEOPLE – Often the forgotten ones in many discussions on suicide. Perhaps the experience of pain, loneliness together with long term or terminal illness and the lack of family support increase the likelihood or elderly people taking their own lives or asking for assistance to suicide.

How do the family and friends of someone who has suicided grieve?
Is their grief different because their loved one has chosen to take their own life?

Talking to a mother, whose daughter suicided, the response is yes.

“With suicide we feel something that is not mentioned in the grief and loss literature … we feel overwhelming rejection of ourselves and our love.”

The grief IS different if suicide has touched you. To the feeling of denial, anger, guilt and emptiness is added rejection. Someone dear to us, whom we love very much, deliberately turned their back on family and friends and hastened their departure from us … why?

In trying to come to terms with this feeling of rejection we can say “was it really a rejection or an inability on their part to accept that they are loved?”

Another question often expressed when a suicide occurs – is “WHY?” The torment involved in seeking a reason for the taking of the life can engulf the bereaved and hinder a healing process. “Wasn’t my love enough for them – what’s wrong with me,” is a usual response of the family.

Grief starts to heal as we talk at length about the loss to someone who will not judge us, or the person we are talking about. In the past, with suicide, there appeared to be a stigma associated with the taking of one’s own life. Today those barriers no longer exist. Clergy of all faiths are available to assist with services in the church. Burials or cremations can be conducted wherever the family may choose.

A booklet on Suicide published by the Catholic Archdiocese of Adelaide says – “In the homily, it may be appropriate or even important to speak about the circumstances of the death – and to name some of the feelings .. . the grief process is not helped by hiding from reality no matter how traumatic it may have been.”

© Gizelle Forgie 2014

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