Understanding Suicide and Grief

What is Grief?

Grief is a universal experience. It is a human response to the loss of someone we love and value. However, it can also be a very difficult experience.

It can be helpful to recognise that grief is a process and that each person experiences grief in a unique way. The following factors may influence how grief is experienced:

  • relationship with the person who died
  • the circumstances surrounding their death
  • how emotional distress has been managed in the past
  • the support network.

The experience of grief can sometimes be very intense. Some people feel they are 'going mad' as grief affects the whole of our being and can leave us feeling out of control and overwhelmed. We need to give ourselves and others permission to grieve and be patient when the process seems to be taking what we consider to be a long time.

Grief is expressed in many ways and there is no specific timeline for the experience. Most people become aware that life will never be the same as it was and in time learn to integrate the reality of the loss into their lives. Eventually, the loved one who died can become part of life in a new way.

Over time the pain should get less. Most people start to recognise they are having more frequent and longer times when they feel more energy and hope. They may notice their memories are not as painful for as long, although this pain may never go away altogether.

Seeking out professional assistance can be helpful for some people.

Some of the common responses to grief are:

Behavioural

Isolation, social withdrawal, intolerance of others, irritability, loss of interest in others, tearfulness, restlessness.

Cognitive

Confusion, forgetfulness, racing mind, poor concentration, difficulty in making decisions, a sense of unreality, repeated disturbing imagery.

Emotional

Shock, disbelief, sadness, distress, numbness, anxiety, guilt, fear, anger, helplessness.

Physical

Change in appetite, change in sleeping, tiredness, headaches, colds.

Spiritual

Loss of meaning, loss of direction, questioning faith/beliefs, searching for understanding.

Ways of living with the experience of grief:

  • be gentle and take time for yourself: have a longer bath/shower, go on walks, sit in a warm nurturing space, visit special places you connect with your loved one, breathe deeply.
  • give yourself time to remember, to look at photos, to share stories, to laugh and cry.
  • create a memory book or a memory box.
  • involve yourself in some light activity: golf, walking, fishing.
  • create or build a special memento to your loved one: a garden, a CD, photo album or DVD.
  • be with people you are comfortable spending time with in conversation or in silence.
  • prepare for special days and holidays with your family/friends. Christmas, birthdays and anniversaries can be difficult times. Plan a visit to the cemetery, light a candle or maybe spend some time at the person's favourite place.
  • make resolutions for new and renewed directions in your life and in the life of your family.
  • keep a journal. Fill it with your thoughts and memories. Take time to reflect and think.
  • avoid increased use of alcohol, smoking, prescription medication and other drugs.
  • avoid too much coffee and tea to help you sleep at night.