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Grief and suicide: Dealing with the loss of a loved one


Many people know someone in their lives who has been affected by suicide. It is always a tragedy to lose someone close, but it can be particularly devastating when someone decides to take their own life.

It is the duty of psychologists and psychiatrists to do everything they can to help someone who has these feelings, and to try and prevent suicidal actions at all costs. The sad reality is, however, that sometimes this is not enough, and sometimes people follow through. There are many thoughts and emotions that race through our minds when we lose someone: Sadness, guilt, regret, anger, and many more. I hope to cover some of these thoughts and feelings, and to provide some strategies for coping with them.

It is not your fault

“If only I had been more nurturing, then maybe this wouldn’t have happened.” You cannot blame yourself. All you can do is try to be there for the person, but sometimes this is just not enough. Decisions are influenced by other people, but ultimately they are made at the individual level. You are not responsible. You really don’t know what was going on in their head at the time, so there is no point beating yourself up over the ‘what ifs’.

 
It is not a selfish act!

An immediate thought that people often have after a peer has committed suicide is, “How could they do this to me. Didn’t they think of how this would make me feel?” The suicide victim has likely already considered that his/her actions will cause heartache for their friends and family, but you have to remember that they are feeling the worst pain they have ever felt in their lives! Every moment feels like torture. For them, it feels like there is no way out, and this was the only option.

 
Sometimes there are no warning signs

Whilst there are often clues indicating that somebody is considering suicide, sometimes the victim may give away no hints at all. People can be very good at realising what is and is not socially acceptable, and may hide how they really feel from the rest of the world. When a peer takes their life without warning, it can be particularly difficult to understand why they would do this to themselves, and leave you wondering how to move on. If this has happened to you, a grief counsellor might be worth seeking out.

Grief counsellors have extensive training for situations just like this, and may be able to help you through this difficult period of life.

What can you do to help?

Research by D.T. Rasic and colleagues (2008) has shown strong evidence for social support networks. Providing an outlet for someone to vent to about their struggles, and showing that you have a genuine interest in their wellbeing can make all the difference. Suicidal thoughts are often associated with feelings of hopelessness as well, so try to remind them of their good qualities, and the things that make them special. It is a good idea to encourage them to seek help from a professional too, but don’t put too much pressure on the person; respect their autonomy.

Support services

If you ever feel like harming yourself, please remember there are people who can help. Contact your GP to discuss your options for treatment, and to find services in your area. ADAVIC can also help you find a counsellor or psychologist. For immediate help, call Lifeline (13 11 14), Beyondblue (1300 224 636), the Suicide Call Back Service (1300 659 467), or SuicideLine (1300 651 251).

 

By Michael – ADAVIC Volunteer

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