One of my very best friends shared with me that she had absolutely no idea what to say or do after I lost Shawn to suicide. This is someone who has known me since 5th grade. We talk every day. She probably knows way too many details about my life–what I eat and what I watch on TV on a near daily basis. Yet, in this situation she still found herself at a loss for words. She searched online for ways to help me and found very little information, so had asked if I had any insight on this topic to share on my blog.
Please know that what I find helpful is very personal to me and my journey. I am hopeful though that this advice does expand beyond myself.
ACKNOWLEDGE AND RESPECT THAT ALL PEOPLE GRIEVE DIFFERENTLY
I cry a lot in my grief. I read and write a lot in my grief. I talk and share a lot in my grief. I chose not to work during the early stages of my grief. While this is how I handled my loss, I realize that not everyone does. Some people do not cry. Some people need to work and stay busy. Some people do not like to talk or share their feelings. Grief can look completely different for different people. Acknowledge and respect that.
BE THERE TO LISTEN
If someone is comfortable sharing their story with you, be there to listen without judgement. I did not need for my friends or family members to provide me with the answers. I just needed them to be there to listen to me as I attempted to make sense of a situation that really does not make sense.
LET THE PERSON KNOW YOU CARE ABOUT & LOVE THEM
I am going to be very honest here. Grief after a loss by suicide is horribly painful. I am generally a very happy, positive, and hopeful person. However, there were moments in my grief where I truly felt that death had to be easier than getting through this. These were often just quick and fleeting thoughts, but they did occur. People who have lost a loved one to suicide are more likely to think about it themselves. This is a fact. Show compassion, understanding, and love and do this often–this is a time when your friend or family member will need it the most. I know I have so much to live for because of the kindness and love I have been shown.
IF YOU HAVE EXPERIENCED A SIMILAR LOSS, SHARE IT PLEASE
In the first few weeks after losing Shawn, I had several wonderfully open and kind individuals (some even strangers to myself), share their stories of suicide loss. Thank you so much for coming forward to offer encouragement, wisdom, support, and love. While our stories are different, you helped me to realize that I am not alone in this journey.
SHARE MEMORIES OF THE INDIVIDUAL WHO DIED BY SUICIDE
I loved, loved, loved (and still do!) hearing stories about Shawn from his friends and family members. The stories shared made me laugh and cry. They made me realize how many lives Shawn had touched in such a positive way. I treasure and hold onto these memories.
EDUCATE YOURSELF ABOUT SUICIDE AND MENTAL HEALTH
After Shawn’s passing, I wanted to-actually NEEDED to- understand suicide and mental health more fully. I read every book, article, and blog I could find in regards to these topics. Many people in our society believe suicide is “selfish” or a “permanent solution to a temporary problem.” When in fact, many suicides are a result of long fought out battles to mental illness. Battles that are often fought in silence due to stigma. Thank you to the individuals who bravely shared stories of depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. Knowledge truly is power. Educate yourself on these topics. It will help you to be a more understanding friend.
BUY YOUR FRIEND A PUPPY
Seriously, buy me a puppy. Okay, this last one is a joke (kind of)–it’s okay to maintain a sense of humor in grief. My friend and roommate will not let me get another puppy because we already have two dogs living with us. However, I do very much believe in the healing power of a dog. Gracie brings me so much love, companionship, and laughter.
These are just a few of the many ways my family members and friends have helped me cope with the loss of Shawn. This loss is truly more than I could ever handle on my own and I am so grateful that I do not have to. THANK YOU TO ALL OF YOU!
If you have also lost someone to suicide, is there something that someone has done to help you cope and grieve? Please feel free to share in the comments.