Language does not seem to contain enough words to accurately describe how we feel after a loved one commits suicide. We experience a profound level of shock and can find it hard to think straight, know what is going on around us or even where we are. Things, which you understood for years before, suddenly now, seem unreal and vague. Life seems to drag and feels heavy, as if we were wading through a swamp.
Our emotions feel wildly out of control, and we never really know how we might react one moment to the other. We can feel disconnected from our feelings, emotions and the world. Our life is turned upside down in a heartbeat as we go through the worst pain imaginable.
The loss of a loved one, friend or relative will always leave us with raw, unpredictable feelings. We will feel thrown off balance, disjointed and lost. However, these feelings can be compounded and made more difficult when we experience a sudden loss due to suicide. In this post, I aim to look at some of the key feelings we experience when someone we love takes their own life.
Losing someone to suicide leaves so many unanswered questions, thoughts and feelings that can eat away at us make us feel disconnected from our internal and external world, and leave us deeply yearning and searching for resolution, understanding and answers. We often find ourselves becoming trapped in a pattern of circular thinking, spending hours remembering our last conversation, message or email we sent to our loved one. Maybe we had not been in touch recently due to an argument, or due to not living close enough to our loved one. Maybe the last time you spoke, you argued, said things you did not mean, and regretted it, but had been unable to explain you were sorry, or that you missed them. We spend time bargaining, begging and wishing from the bottom of our hearts that things could have turned out differently.
The biggest unanswered question we are left with in the wake of losing someone we love to suicide is why. Why didn’t they feel as though they could come to us for support, care or love? Not knowing an answer to this question is crippling. We constantly tell ourselves, and others that we know in our hearts that we would have done anything to support our loved one.
It hurts us at an unquestionably deep level to know that our loved one felt they had no one left to turn to, and no more options, and that they took their own life not feeling as though they could turn to us for help. The question of why lingers endlessly, and enters our ideas, thoughts and feelings at a profoundly deep level.
“I Could Have Done More”
The feelings of guilt we experience after a loved one takes their own life can consume us, alter our perception of events and impact us physically, leaving our stomach in knots. We search our mind for clues, patterns or evidence as to why this happened, and attempt to reconstruct the past. We tell ourselves that had we only replied to a message sooner, returned a phone call more urgently or spent more time with that person, that they would not have taken their own life.
We find ourselves saying, “I think it was my fault”, or “I could have done more”. Our guilt comes from the mistaken belief that we could have prevented the death from occurring.
The painful truth is, no one can predict the future or know the thoughts or feelings of another, or their intentions. It is human nature to blame oneself when experiencing a loss by suicide, rather than to accept that some things are out of our control.
“How Could They Do This To Me?”
After losing someone to suicide, it can be common to feel a deep level of anger towards them, and for feelings of abandonment and betrayal to arise. We may start to question the relationship we had with this person and wonder what we meant to them or whether they valued us as we valued them. When our emotions and thoughts are all over the place, it can be hard to get out of a cycle of anger where we question the fundamental factors of our relationships with a loved one who took their own life.
Our anger can also be transferred toward a real or perceived culprit, for example a partner who broke off a relationship with your loved one, or a company they worked for, who made them redundant. It is easier to apportion blame in this way, rather than be angry at the person you loved.
However, it is also important to remember, that it is possible to be angry with someone, and to still hold them dear to your heart. Sometimes, this level of anger is necessary before you can begin to accept the reality of the loss.
Acceptance & Looking Ahead
“I can miss them and still continue living”
Part of being able to grow and heal after experiencing a suicide, is to accept that the tragic events were out of your control and cannot be changed. Accepting is very different to forgetting. No one is asking you to forget, move on, or to return to how or who you were before your loved one passed away.
The memories and feelings of losing someone to suicide will be with you always and there will be times when your feelings will be difficult to manage, particularly during the first year when birthdays and anniversaries come around.
Over time however, you will begin to manage how you feel, hold within your mind the memory of your loved one and cherish who they were and what they meant to you. It will be tough, but you will heal and grow, and in time will find yourself laughing, smiling and enjoying life once more.