Someone I Love Died By Suicide by Doreen Cammarata
This month marks "National Suicide Survivor Day". November 17, 2001 is set aside to recognize all those who have endured grief surrounding suicide of a loved one. I would like to dedicate my first column to my mom. November 14th was her birthday and she died by suicide 15 years ago.
As a survivor myself, I reflect upon how much my life has changed and developed since my mom's death. An adolescent when her death occurred, my life was ultimately shaped into becoming a resource and support for individuals challenged by depression, suicide, grief and various types ofloss.
In my training as a counselor I focused on my own personal and professional growth in field of grief counseling. I learned that education is a reciprocal process. My greatest teachers have been numerous students that I worked with in an alternative high school dropout retrieval program as well as many young children I worked with at a local hospice program. While teaching at a university I am fortunate to have been touched by so many caring professional counselors, nurses and social workers who have attended my classes as well as by resourceful professors who gave me my foundation of training.
During this specific time of recognition for suicide survivors, conferences will meet throughout country to educate and bring survivors together. You can access a "Live Webcast" on Saturday, November 17th from noon to 1:30p.m. by visiting American Foundation of Suicide Prevention website: www.afsp.org. This organization provides research, bibliographies, updated articles and much more. For more information you can contact them directly at (212) 363-3500.
In my work facilitating suicide support groups I encourage survivors to share what they find as key differences in grieving a suicide. Most survivors express intensified shock, anger and guilt in coping with death of their special person.
I could identify with these feelings. Although I was only 17 when my mom died by suicide, I experienced extreme guilt in my grief. I believed that "if only" I had done something different, I could have saved her. I eventually came to terms with fact that there was nothing I could have done to stop what had occurred. Like many survivors I too beat myself up with "what if's" for quite some time.
Not all survivors experience guilt and anger but that tends to be a prominent theme for most. Anger can be felt in various ways. It is commonly directed at individual who died. When in touch with this type of anger, many survivors tend to reflect on struggles their loved one endured and then ultimately feel guilt ridden once again. For some, anger is directed at surviving loved ones in a blaming fashion. Encouraging survivors to express their anger as well as their other feelings in a therapeutic environment will have positive long-term effects.
It is crucial to be aware of accentuated duration and intensity of grief following a suicide. Most individuals take years to recover from devastation of this event. It is estimated that someone grieving a sudden loss will take three times average amount of time to heal from death. Being sensitive to amount of time and extreme emotions that a survivor will feel during his grief is one way that you can assist in healing process. Another way to help a survivor is by allowing him to tell and retell specifics surrounding death.