Let’s Not Overlook Those Grieving in the Aftermath of Suicide

Carole A. Chasin, LMFT

Let’s Not Overlook Those Grieving in the Aftermath of Suicide
by Carole A. Chasin, LMFT

No one who has lost a loved one to suicide is ever the same again. Suicide affects many people, in many ways, and its impact can be far reaching. There has been significant progress made in understanding the psychological and external factors that contribute to suicide, in identifying useful and effective interventions for suicidal individuals, and providing essential postvention (grief support) procedures through individual bereavement counseling, grief support groups and psychotherapy. In spite of the progress that has been made in acknowledging and responding to suicide, there are still many obstacles in society that complicate this bereavement process.

As a licensed mental health professional with a specialty in this area, I have learned through experience that we are still in the early stages of talking openly about suicide. There is still whispering and avoidance. I am hopeful that through additional education to the public and professionals, society will become more aware, sensitive and open to comforting survivors who have lost a loved one to suicide.

Nationally, there are approximately 44,000 reported suicides a year. Each suicide intimately affects at least 6 people. That leaves approximately 264,000 survivors a year – mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, spouses, partners, grandparents, friends, co-workers, therapists, and so on. A very serious residual effect to these survivors is that they are at a four times greater risk for suicide themselves. Suicide affects everyone, from every walk of life. Unfortunately, no one and no family is immune. It cuts across ethnic, religious, economic, social and age boundaries.

Grieving and surviving the suicide of someone close to you can be one of the most traumatic experiences a person will ever endure. For a time, it seems that the pain is endless. Bereavement after suicide can be complicated and compromised by a lack of social support perpetuated by denial, stigma and shame that unfortunately still surrounds death by suicide. Additional contributing factors can be witnessing the suicide, finding the body, having police present who are possibly making accusations and having to establish a crime scene to determine the cause of death. The sequalae can result in delayed grieving.

Normal grieving responses can initially be numbness, shock and disbelief followed possibly by guilt, shame, blame, anger, puzzlement, abandonment, anxiety, great sadness, stigma, hurt or searching for “why.” Through research and my experience, it has been shown that survivors heal best by sharing their grief experiences and feelings with others who have lost a loved one to suicide. Two primary means of support that are highly beneficial can include individual counseling with a grief counselor specializing in bereavement after suicide and/or a survivor’s grief support group. Remember, as a survivor, you do not have to go through this alone!

Carole A. Chasin is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (#31891) in Beverly Hills. Her specialty is in Bereavement After Suicide. She can be reached at 310.289.4643, via her website: www.carolechasin.com, and email: carole@carolechasin.com.