Today is National Suicide Prevention Day and every part of me wants to change that to say National Suicide Awareness Day (which is exactly what I do on my own posts). While I consider it a valiant goal to strive for prevention of suicide, my sense is that we could never reach 100% prevention and that awareness may be a better goal.
In August, about 1/3 of my client caseload consisted of people who had lost a loved one to suicide. While I could offer up statistics all day long about the impact of suicide, I think perhaps sharing some of the wisdom of my clients may be the best dose of awareness I could offer.
What do survivors of suicide loss want you to know?
- That they did everything they knew how to do to help and support the person they’ve lost.
- That they would give anything to get another chance to talk to their loved one and to offer up all the reasons they wish they were still here.
- That they wrestle with their pain in the context of knowing their loved one was suffering as well.
- That they feel guilt and shame and confusion and helpless over and over again when it comes to the suicide of their loved one.
- That they feel they can’t openly talk about their loss for fear of being judged.
- That they will spend a lifetime trying to work through the pain of this loss.
- That they too often suffer with thoughts of hopelessness or suicide.
- That they can’t watch a movie or TV show without wondering if there will be a callous reference to suicide that will trigger their grief.
- That the grief ebbs and flows with time and they are never quite sure when they’ll fall into the dark hole of loss and sadness.
- That they feel happiness and joy in their lives in spite of and because of their loss.
- That they continue to navigate a relationship with the person they’ve lost.
- That they want others to find help and support that works and keeps them alive.
- That they feel for those left behind every time they hear about another suicide.
- That they make it their life’s mission to talk about difficult feelings and experiences.
- That they want you to be present and accounted for each day of your life.
And as a non-normative grief counselor, what do I want you to know?
- If you are having thoughts of suicide:
- You are not alone. Life is hard and it often feels lonely, but then it gets easier and you find connection, and then it gets hard again. It is a cycle of suffering and relief that we experience if we are truly living. You are not meant to traverse all of the difficult times alone.
- People want you to be ok. Everyone deserves to be supported in their darkness. Stay open to the hand that might emerge from the darkness to guide you through. We are fighting for you.
- You can be someone’s guiding light. As you find your way through, you will inspire and touch others who are also navigating the dark. Your journey may be someone’s saving grace.
- If you have lost someone to suicide:
- I am so sorry you are experiencing this and I know how deeply you are hurting.
- I want to get to know your loved one because this is how they live on.
- You are not alone and you will find others who understand your pain.
- I too am a survivor of suicide loss and I will be with you every step of the way as you heal for yourself and the one you’ve lost.
- If you have not been affected by loss to suicide or suicidal thinking yourself:
- There is work to be done and you have the power to do it.
- Take the time today to reach out to someone who struggles.
- Take the time today to act kindly.
- Recognize that we are all just walking each other home (thank you Ram Dass) and we have the opportunity to clean up the path while we walk.
- If you are (or have ever been) my client:
- Thank you for sharing your story with me.
- Thank you for trusting me to hold space for you in your suffering.
- Thank you for your vulnerability and your honesty.
- Thank you for your courage and your strength.
- Thank you for bringing your heart and your soul to every session.
- Thank you for giving me insight that helps others.
- Thank you for working so hard to heal.
- Thank you for healing me.
Thank you for your time and attention to this topic. It affects us all.