surviving-suicide-lrWe often hear about a celebrity or famous person who has tragically lost their life to suicide.  Hearing the horrific news of a loved one who has died to suicide is one of the hardest things you may ever have to face.  Especially when it was someone you were really trying to help with their struggle to find relief from their pain.

Have you ever lost a loved one to suicide?  If so, you’re not alone.  Many have had a friend or family member take their own life.

In the midst of your pain, here are some helpful things for you to do:

Find safe people.  You’ll experience a lot of emotions—from grief to blame.  Make sure you have safe people in your life who can listen without judgement but are still able to tell you the truth.  These safe people might be pastors, close friends, or family members who can love you unconditionally during this difficult time.

Talk about your loss.  It’s so painful to open up; however, keeping it all inside won’t help you heal.  Going to a Life Recovery or grief support group will give you an opportunity to share your story.  And seeing a Christian counselor who can acknowledge your hurt and walk this journey with you will help you know you’re not alone in your loss.

Remember your favorite times together.  Tell a friend, or share with a support group, about one of your favorite memories of your loved one.  And ask your family and friends about what their favorite memory of your loved one is.  Whether it’s a funny story or a special time you spent together, remembering the good times will allow some light to pierce through the darkness in your life.

Prepare for painful days.  The days—and years—ahead will be painful.  Be aware birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries won’t be the same.  During these days, it’s okay to be sad.  Don’t put yourself down when you cry or grieve – and don’t allow anyone else to put you down. It’s okay to cry during these difficult days.  But on the flip side, when you experience laughter and joy, tell yourself it’s okay to be happy.

Be patient. You and your loved ones are on a roller coaster of emotions.  So be patient with yourself and others.  If someone tells you how to feel or what to think, set boundaries with them.  Give yourself permission to say “no” to unsafe people and to things you’re not able to do right now.  Put off making important decisions until you’re ready to make them.

Let go of guilt.  Learn to forgive yourself.  The truth is, you’re not responsible for your loved one’s suicide.  When someone takes their life, they are in a painful state of mind.  There was nothing you could have done to prevent them from making the decision to end their life.  As a survivor, though, you can make the right choice—choose life.  But if you struggle with debilitating anxiety or depression, see a psychiatrist or doctor.  Medication may be a helpful option for your healing journey.

Accept reality.  It’s so hard to accept loss and face reality.  Ask some tough questions of God.  And ask your pastor, counselor, and support group those same difficult questions.  But in the end, you’ll need to accept reality if you want to move forward.  Realize you’ll never have all the answers or fully understand why your loved one chose to do what they did.  Accepting reality doesn’t mean you approve, understand, or will forget.  Instead, it means finding a new normal and beginning to open up your heart again.

Throughout the grieving process, be compassionate to yourself and give yourself permission to grieve on your own terms.  Expect setbacks — it takes time. Keep in mind there will be good days as well as some bad days.  In the midst of your pain, know God is with you.

When David was alone, he cried out in pain: “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle.  You have recorded each one in your book,” (Psalm 56:8, NLT).

Please know the Lord hears your cries.  Not a tear falls from your face the Lord doesn’t know about.