The Effects of Suicide on those Left Behind
Suicide is devastating thing, the effects of suicide on the friends and family of those lost can be severe and can effect them for years to come. Those left behind by suicide are often known as suicide survivors. Suicide has more of an impact on those other than the person who committed suicide than you think. People who have lost someone to suicide are more likely to have suicidal thoughts, attempt or complete suicide. Learning that a loved one has died is hard on anybody, everybody knows that, but finding out that a loved one has died by suicide can be absolutely traumatic. In addition to grief, survivors may feel extreme guilt for not being able to prevent it, failure because a person they loved and/or were close to felt unloved and/or unimportant or worthless. They also may feel anger or resentment at the person who chose to take his or her own life, and confusion as to why they did or why the person themselves couldn’t help prevent it. Children of parents who committed suicide are at a significantly increased risk for committing suicide themselves, and the younger the child at the time of the parent’s suicide the greater the risk of their own suicide.
Suicide can isolate survivors from other people, friends and family members. There’s a powerful stigma around suicide, especially with religion as it is seen as a sin. This can cause them to keep the suicide a secret from outsiders, children and/or selected relatives, this can also lead to isolation, confusion, and shame that may last for years or even generations. It’s important for survivors to feel like they are allowed to grieve, like they are allowed to talk about it without being judged. I know this from experience, I lost someone to suicide and when I got the news, everybody in my family had already heard about it. They weren’t in that same state of shock as I was when I had gotten to the hospital and I felt as if I had to be strong, that if I had started crying it would have set off other people. I feel as though I can’t grieve anymore, as though I should be over it because it was almost two years ago. I feel as though I have lost my grieving period.
No matter how someone was acting before they committed suicide, you never know what was happening in their brain. How they truly felt. They could seem like the happiest person on earth, it doesn’t mean they aren’t wearing a mask to hide their pain. The only thing we know about what’s happening in someone else’s mind is what they tell us. We live in a world where if we talk about how we feel, we’re just seeking attention. Survivors feel this as much as the one that they lost to suicide. Especially if it’s been a couple of years since they have lost their loved one.
“Those of us on the outside cannot comprehend the insidious layers suicide brings to the grief equation. Anger at the person, at a failed healthcare system or counseling, and at friends and family either before or after, can exist with any death. But when suicide is involved, guilt and anger branch off in directions where a different kind of ugliness exists. That ugliness folds into society’s skewed perception of suicide and mental health issues. There is the unfathomable shock of physically finding their loved one immediately after they’ve died (yes, that is hard to read, but it happens). There can be guilt over wondering what they could’ve done differently that might’ve saved there person’s life- the bombardment of “what ifs.” Addictions can be present as a way to cope or subdue mental illness. They can contribute to the velocity of being sucked into the darkness of no-way-out or to the death itself. Kind, sweet, caring people are suffering, they are hurting inside and think they are out of options. They think nothing can be done to stop their pain, yet the rarely LOOK sick, which adds to the shame and misinformed perceptions.” (Kathrine Webb – Suicide Awareness – What Those Left Behind Wish Others Really Understood.)
What I believe is that people who don’t have depression or anxiety or one of those disease that cause thoughts of suicide is that it is a mental illness. They can’t “just be happy”, if they could they would. I know this on a personal level, as I have not only struggled with the grief of someone lost to suicide, but also with suicidal thoughts and depression. Suicide overall is a sore subject, nobody wants to talk about for the fear of setting someone else off, because you don’t know if it’s a sore subject for them. Plus it’s depressing and sad and most people don’t want to talk about those kinds of things. There are a lot of factors that contribute to the reason survivors are afraid to talk about their loss, as you can see.