The level of stress a person feels after losing a loved one to suicide is catastrophically high – equivalent to that of a highly traumatic concentration camp experience, according to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).
In other words, if we established a “stress scale” from 0 to 100, with 100 being the highest, losing a loved one to suicide would rank at 100 – the highest stress level imaginable.
First, the shock of losing a loved one to suicide can overwhelm anyone, but then the anger, confusion, sadness, guilt, and grief that usually follow can be debilitating.
And that is not the end of the stress, because a suicide survivor must also cope with the STIGMA associated with suicide.
So how can anyone cope with such a high stress level? Get help IMMEDIATELY. Get help from as many CARING and TRUSTWORTHY people as possible.
Get into therapy. Confide in friends and family members. Reach out to other suicide survivors.
Realize there will be a long journey of healing ahead but you WILL get through it.
And please understand that the stress of a suicide can cloud your thinking. So be gentle with yourself. If you have difficulty concentrating, become forgetful, or cannot focus, please know that you are undergoing VERY NORMAL emotions and don’t push yourself too hard.
Let yourself cry. Express your emotions. Grieve. Talk. Allow yourself to work through your loss at your own pace…in your own way. Don’t compare your reaction to that of other people. You are a very special, unique person who will heal in your own time.
Again, be gentle with yourself and remind yourself that you are undergoing a level of stress that is EXTREMELY high.
Anything you can do to relax will also help. Take hot baths. Go for walks. Do some deep breathing. Listen to soft music. Light some candles. Relax, my friend…relax.
During your recovery process you will eventually be able to CELEBRATE the life of your loved one. You will begin to remind yourself about countless wonderful things about your loved one. And your stress will continue to abate.
When you can, do things that you enjoy…whatever they may be. Go to a nice restaurant. Go to a concert. Take a small trip. Don’t push yourself too hard, but allow yourself to start enjoying life again.
Know that countless others have experienced what you are experiencing and have made it through. And they are doing VERY well today.
My friend, you WILL make it through this journey. You WILL rebound from this stress. You WILL be able to celebrate the life of your loved one. And you WILL have an amazing life.
by Kevin Caruso, Suicide.org