Home > Theological questions > Living as a survivor of suicide

Living as a survivor of suicide


orleans by gerard laurenceau

Updated: May 23 2013 (originally published in 2010)

I am a survivor of suicide–this means that someone close to me completed suicide– was successful in their suicide attempt.  So, I am a survivor, the one left behind. In my case the first time I was put into the survivor category was over forty years ago when my mother completed suicide.

A number of years ago, I began to explore how suicide affected my own life.  I attended a Survivors of Suicide meeting for a few months and found it helpful.  Equipped with a little understanding about these type of meetings, I then led a SOS meeting overseas where I was living–we met for over a year.  We lost a colleague to suicide in the last few years and the topic came up again and led me to write about my journey once again. I am grateful my sharing led to conversations with a few people. I attempted to be a safe place for people to process their pain by listening to them tell the story of a past suicide in their life. I guess that is the best we can do for anyone who is a survivor of suicide.

A comment on a post about suicide that I made in 2007 got me thinking again. SOS used to have a helpful website.  They still have a website with some information and a link to survivor of suicide groups on the suicidology.org website Unfortunately, there are not many meetings around–I counted half a dozen in the Dallas area and one in San Antonio for Texas where I live–none in Houston, the largest city where I used to attend my SOS meetings. Perhaps they still exist in another form or by another name.  If anyone has information on that, I would appreciate them making a comment for others.

I wonder if college students are any more uncomfortable talking about these topics but if they are survivors, talking seems to be a requirement to move on to healing in my opinion.  Anyway, I found the following that may be helpful to some.  It is designed more for those who lost someone recently to suicide  but I think it may be helpful even if the suicide happened a long time ago.  Here is another post I made about why not to commit suicide.

Suggestions for Survivors
by Iris M. Bolton

  • Know you can survive. You may not think so, but you can.
  • Struggle with “why” it happened until you no longer need to know, or until you are satisfied with partial answers.
  • Know you may feel overwhelmed by the intensity of your feelings, but know that all your feelings are normal.
  • Anger, guilt, confusion, forgetfulness are common responses. You are not crazy, you are in mourning.
  • Be aware you may feel appropriate anger at the person, at the world, at God, at yourself. It is okay to express it.
  • You may feel guilty for what you think you did or did not do. Guilt can turn into regret, through forgiveness.
  • Having suicidal thoughts is common. It does not mean that you will act on those thoughts.
  • Remember to take one moment or one day at a time.
  • Find a good listener with whom to share. Call someone if you need to talk.
  • Don’t be afraid to cry. Tears are healing. Give yourself time to heal.
  • Remember the choice was not yours. No one is the sole influence in another life.
  • Expect setbacks. If emotions return like a tidal wave, you may only be experiencing a remnant of grief, an unfinished piece.
  • Try to put off major decisions.
  • Give yourself permission to get professional help.
  • Be aware of the pain of your family and friends.
  • Be patient with yourself and with others who may not understand.
  • Set your own limits and learn to say no.
  • Steer clear of people who want to tell you what or how to feel.
  • Know that there are support groups that can be helpful, such as Compassionate Friends or Survivors of Suicide groups. If not, ask a professional to help start one.
  • Call on your personal faith to help you through.
  • It is common to experience physical reactions to your grief, e.g., headaches, loss of appetite, inability to sleep.
  • The willingness to laugh with others and at yourself is healing.
  • Explore your questions, anger, guilt, or other feelings until you can let them go.
  • Letting go doesn’t mean forgetting.

Know that you will never be the same again, but that you can survive and even thrive.

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  1. August 17, 2013 at 4:56 pm

    Thanks for sharing. People in general need help with the real struggles in their life. Thanks for getting this topic out in the open.

    -Tasha, The Bridge Chicago

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