suicide survivors day
About the Author: Catelyn Reimnitz is a program specialist who supports suicide prevention and crisis services as part of the South Dakota Division of Behavioral Health’s Office of Prevention and Crisis Services.
In the United States, approximately 44,000 people die by suicide each year. Suicide not only affects the individual, but the health and well-being of others. Each loss leaves family, friends and communities grieving and struggling to understand and cope.
On November 19, 2022, the International Day of Survivors of Suicide, friends and families of those who have died by suicide can come together to find connection, understanding and hope through shared experiences.
Losing a loved one to suicide can be unimaginable and the pain that accompanies it can be devastating. It can be easy to fall victim to your grief during this vulnerable time. The emotions one feels can be overwhelming and heartbreaking. Some people may even feel guilty and wonder how they didn’t see the signs and if they did, what could they have done to prevent them.
It is important for survivors to adopt healthy coping habits while going through their grief. For instance:
- Staying in touch. Use the supports around you, such as family members, friends, or spiritual leaders, who can bring you comfort, understanding, and healing. Make sure they are people you think have your best interests at heart and will take the time to listen and talk with you during this time of grief.
- Grieve your way. There is no “right way” to grieve and there is no time limit to “get over it”. Do what’s right for you, no matter what, and listen to your needs. Do not rush. Grieving is complicated and you may experience periods of regression. Losing a loved one to suicide is devastating. Give yourself grace during this time.
- Be prepared for painful reminders. Birthdays, holidays, and other special occasions can be painful reminders of what was once there, whether through traditions or otherwise. Take note of how you feel during these times and consider changing traditions if needed to help ease the pain. It’s normal to have hard days. Healing is like a roller coaster; it doesn’t happen in a straight line.
- Consider a support group or professional help. Sharing your story or grief with others can help you find purpose and strength. You’re not alone. Peer/professional support is there, know when to reach out.
You may never know why your loved one decided to commit suicide, and you may feel guilt, extreme sadness, and anger about going on with your day-to-day life. The intensity of these feelings will diminish. The first step to healing is understanding that suicide is no one’s fault and that the ensuing grief is complicated. By taking care of yourself and learning different coping strategies, you can better manage your pain and strive to honor the memory of your loved one.
Those who have lost a loved one to suicide are truly survivors because every day they survive their loss in the best way they know how. November 19e is a day to recognize the strength and resilience of survivors of loss by suicide. Together we can be the change.
Resources are available. The Healing After Suicide Loss in Your Life guide is a resource available for those who have lost a loved one to suicide. In addition, the Helpline has a set of specific bereavement survivor recovery resources that can be mailed or distributed upon request. Visit https://sdsuicideprevention.org/survivor-services/.
To locate survivor support groups in South Dakota, visit sdsuicideprevention.org.
To read previous editions of the Mental Health Memo, visit https://dss.sd.gov/keyresources/news.aspx#mhmemo .
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