Suicide affects so many people beyond the person lost. Surviving family members and friends face complex emotions in the coming months and, even years, after the tragedy. Life for those left behind may never return to normal, but there are ways to move forward in a healthy way.
Talk about your loved one. When a member of the family is lost to suicide, one coping mechanism can be to avoid mentioning the person altogether. Holidays and birthdays can be especially hard to get through without sharing memories of when they were present to celebrate with you. Say their name out loud and begin to process the emotions that arise for you.
Start new traditions. If you find that a former tradition is too painful, work together with immediate family members to find a solution that feels right to all involved. It may take some experimenting to find that perfect fit, but you can hold onto the parts that you enjoyed and release the parts that felt forced.
Share your thoughts. Some of the complicated emotions you will be processing can feel uncomfortable and even disloyal to the person you lost. Share them with people who will understand what you are going through. The other members of your family are grieving as well. Lean on one another for support and share your reality.
Be patient with your family, and yourself. Stressors are high in the best of times. Couple the loss of a loved one through suicide with the challenges of living through a pandemic and you have the perfect situation for an emotional overload. Give yourself extra time to respond and make sure that the family is going out of their way to be kind to one another.
Connect the entire family with a mental health professional. Individual and family counseling is vital at such a time as this. Even if you consider yourself to be physically and emotionally strong, a tragic event can be jarring for anyone.
If you would like to start a conversation about how I can help you as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, please contact my office at the Jacksonville Center for Counseling at (904) 737-7242.