Certain kinds of death require a great deal more understanding than more "ordinary" deaths, and the suicidal death of a partner, friend or family member carries a high risk of the grieving process becoming extremely complicated and distressing.
Many people, from all cultures, are left to grieve the completed suicide of a loved one each year and they are not only left with having to grieve the loss, but in a way they often also inherit feelings of shame, anger, fear, rejection and highly destructive (and usually irrational) guilt. A leading suicide prevention worker said- 'I believe the person who commits suicide puts his or her psychological skeletons in the survivor's emotional closet', and he or she sentences the survivors to deal with many negative feelings, and more, to become obsessed with thoughts regarding their own actual or possible role in having precipitated the suicidal act or having failed to abort or prevent it. It can be a heavy load.
Suicide is without doubt the most difficult bereavement crisis to overcome for any family or individual because of the totally unique nature of the past relationships with the deceased in every case. There are some fairly common things that can happen to survivors though, and these can include feelings of shame (there is a stigma about suicide in our society), isolation (because people don't like to talk about it) and this can affect the way people get along with each other - and the rest of the world.
Because of these factors there can be a temptation to distort the truth of what has happened and it is not uncommon for families to collaborate in building up some kind of MYTH about the deceased, which again, however understandable this may be, can in fact be destructive in the longer term as people get further apart and quite tired through having to LIVE A LIE - in such circumstances it is often better to be really truthful to avoid the unforeseen strain that can happen later.
A further factor, perhaps the worst of all, is the guilt described above, and this can be exacerbated if the person feeling it had a previous rocky or ambivalent relationship with the deceased. Although most guilty feelings tend to be proven incorrect in the cold light of day, some people can get stuck in this and can benefit from help. Even real guilt can be helped to be resolved. Guilty feelings are normal after any kind of death, but in the case of a suicide these feelings can be powerfully amplified. People can take to punishing themselves in a variety of different ways and even behaving in ways that have the effect of upsetting others, who in turn withdraw from them - punished again. Isolation, heavy drinking or use of other substances can occur, as can over or under-eating. Even in survivors who are not exhibiting such symptoms, there are usually noticeable changes in their manner or behaviour. Self-punishing behaviour can be extreme, even though most guilty feelings turn out to be invalid.
Guilty feelings can sometimes come out as BLAME that can be directed at a variety of people, including professional staff, and which is particularly damaging to close friends and relatives, especially children. Anger at the deceased is also commonly and quite legitimately felt, but it is perceived as just something else to feel guilty about, and this anger can turn to Low Self-Esteem. Mostly the reason for this is because of the feelings of rejection caused by the intentional death. People can often be heard to say 'If he cared about me he wouldn't have done this' - however, it is not usually the survivor who has been rejected, but some other aspect/s of life, often only ever known to the deceased.
Fear is another common response after a suicide, and this causes higher levels of anxiety that in those who have experienced a more NORMAL death situation. A common primary fear amongst suicide survivors is the worry about their own suicidal feelings - even though these are quite normal amongst very normal people. The fear is amplified somehow and they can become very morose if they do not attend to their bereavement processes adequately.
DISTORTED THINKING is another feature found amongst suicide survivors. Often people need to see the suicide in some other way - an accident or a temporary blip in sanity. This can develop into a distorted myth that is shared amongst the family - and woe-betide the person who calls the death by its real name. This kind of distorted thinking can be useful in the short-term, as a kind of emotional pain-killer, however in the long term it is definitely unuseful to the well-being of survivors.
If the issues are taken seriously by the survivors, then their recovery rate can be dramatically improved, with appropriate help and mutual understandings among the family, all of whom will be affected to some degree or another. It is best to seek assistance as early as possible to minimise risk to health.
People who have witnessed a suicide can often experience intrusive images or FLASHBACKS and this can disturb normal life enormously. Even those who did not witness the suicide can be plagued by intrusive images in their imagination - sometimes even worse than the real event was. Intrusive imagery usually fades with time and specialist techniques can be taught to assist this to speed up.
Finally, the effects of a suicide can be far reaching for individuals and families, who can sometimes pull apart. Help can most usefully be sought as early as possible and the bereavement process facilitated, even though not all families are torn apart by suicide, some get closer.
It is often the case that those affected by the suicide reject help and go to extraordinary lengths to make sure that help is frustrated or kept away. For the reader affected towards rejecting help it is important to consider whether your own feelings of guilt may be influencing your decisions - you may be feeling a need to be hurt that is irrational (it seems true but it is in fact unjust).
Some people have an inability to work through their grief, bereavement support can help to bring confidence and a feeling of security back into your life.