Strength For Survivors
Isaiah 5:4, “What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?”
In this Article, I wish to address why the grieving of those who’s loved one has completed suicide. There are a misguided and unfounded stigma pertaining to suicide. My goal is to dispel such myths and stigma.
I chose the above scripture solely based upon the haunting question, “What could have been done more…”
Research has long known that suicide survivors move through very distinctive bereavement issues. Family and friends are prone to feeling significant bewilderment about the suicide. “Why did this happen?” “How did I not see this coming?” Overwhelming guilt about what they should have done more of or less of —become daily, haunting thoughts. Survivors of suicide loss often feel self-blame as if somehow they were responsible for their loved one’s suicide. Many can also experience anger and rage against their loved one for abandoning or feeling that they rejected their help—or disappointment that somehow they were not powerful enough, loved enough or special enough to prevent the suicide.
These mistaken assumptions plague survivors of suicide loss for a very long time. Many struggle for years trying to make sense of their loved one’s death—and even longer making peace—if at all—with the unanswerable questions that linger.
Society still attaches a stigma to suicide. And as such, survivors of suicide loss may encounter blame, judgment or social exclusion – while mourners of loved ones who have died from terminal illness, accident, old age or other kinds of deaths usually receive sympathy and compassion. It’s strange how we would never blame a family member for a loved one’s cancer or Alzheimer’s, but society continues to cast a shadow on a loved one’s suicide. The Lord Jesus Christ has got to be trusted in every area of our lives. Even the area that we just cannot explain. He does not turn His back upon our loved ones who complete suicide. He does not love them any less than the living.
What also makes grieving different is that when we lose a loved one to illness, old age or an accident, we retain happy memories. We can think back on our loved one and replay fond memories, share stories with joyful nostalgia. This is not so for the suicide survivor. They questions the memories, “Were they really alright?” “Maybe he wasn’t really happy in this picture?” “Why didn’t I see her emotional pain when we were on vacation?” Sometimes it becomes terribly agonizing to connect to a memory or to share stories from the past—so survivors often divorce themselves from their loved one’s legacy.
Survivors of suicide loss not only experience these aspects of complicated grief, they are also prone to developing symptoms of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder—a direct result from their loved one’s suicide. The unspeakable sadness about the suicide becomes a circle of never ending bewilderment, pain, flashbacks and a need to numb the anguish.
While it is true that completing suicide ends the opportunity for things in life to get better for the dearly departed, it is NOT the unpardonable sin. The emotions and the way survivors process thoughts, can be highly unstable. As they say, “Good days, and bad days”.
The only true stability of mind and emotions will be to trust the love and Sovereignty of God. Suicide certainly touches the heart of God.
Next article will include suggested ways to help a survivor of suicide loss; and ways to help yourself if you’re a survivor of suicide loss.
If I can help you in any way, please do not hesitate to call or email me.
Steven Blankenship, LPPC 850-995-7006 or firstname.lastname@example.org