7 ways of coping when someone you know has committed suicide

Suicide is far from painless

“Suicide is painless, it brings on many changes, and I can take or leave it if I please.”
You might recognize this from the theme song from M*A*S*H.

1. Talk about it: Suicide #1

Last week, I had intended to post a blog about the topic, after someone I knew, a mother to three kids, a woman my own age, decided to end her own life. I felt such a surge of strong emotions, even though I wasn’t personally that close. At the funeral, which I attended to support her family and children, the intense anger, emptiness, the questions, the tears, the extreme sorrow were impossible to miss. Her nephew gave his eulogy and intentionally broke it off without an ending. One of the children wouldn’t or couldn’t speak about her mother.

2. Sometimes humor helps

If I were immensely talented, I would try, like in the Guilty Feminist podcast that I’ve been listening to lately, to make this a funny post about a very sad and serious matter.  But I’m only me, immensely imperfect, just like the rest of us, so let me just speak from the heart. Sometimes using black humor with a trusted friend can be a relief. Sometimes, it’s okay to laugh, and of course, to cry.

3. Reframe, and try to understand  – Suicide #2  Tragic Death #2

This week, I got another call, this time, much closer to home, about a friend of ours, whose daughter – only 16 – had ended her life. There’s no regretting this decision. It’s final. And somehow, I doubt it’s painless.

  • How does a family pick up the pieces after such a death?
  • Perhaps it’s similar to a terminal illness, where you fear the worst but hope for the best?
  • Is death ‘the end’ or finally a peaceful beginning for tortured souls?
  • Is this a selfish act, or just self-centered, because when you are in so much mental and emotional anguish – it seems the only path to choose?

Oh, you want answers?  Sorry, but it’s too late. There are none.

4. Love and remember the person as they were in life

The girl who was beautiful, talented, intelligent, a friend to many, a leader, a twin (yes that hurts, right?) had the presence of mind to leave a goodbye letter via social media before she made this irreversible change to her life. There was no real blame in this message, mostly a wish that her friends would find the strength to go on lead long and meaningful lives. It sounded like a message from someone who was old and wise, and had spent her days here on earth and now had to move on.

5. Acknowledge the pain

She moved on, perhaps to a better place, but it is not painless. The family – the siblings, the father, the mother, the aunts, the uncles, the little niece who lives nextdoor and doesn’t understand where her favorite auntie is – they are suffering terribly. And I fear the pain will get worse, before it gets better. What of the friends, the teachers, the therapists, the mentors… the list goes on. Everyone is left with a burden. To me, it feels like a black, hard, indigestible lump of coal stuck in my guts.

6. Know you are not alone

No home goes unscathed when it comes to grief. It comes to us in many forms. I, too, have lost a child to an unrelenting illness. If you want to see Yarden’s site – please do.
Like in this well known fable: A bereaved father begs God, “Please God, let my son come back to life, and God replies: “If you can find one home in your village where no one has had a death in the family, then I will return your child to you.” And of course there is no such family, as death is part of life.  And we do, as my friend’s wise daughter said, have to keep on choosing life and keep on believing that with time, all hurts will heal.

7. Find many ways of coping

There isn’t one sure way – each person has their own, and I wasn’t sure how to end this post, but remembered another friend, who lost her son, told me that this book, “Mourning has broken: a collection of creative writing about grief and healing” edited by Mara Koven and Liz Pearl,  with its short pieces on mourning, helped her and the boy’s grandmother through hard times. I have a short piece in it too, about coping with my son’s loss. I remember that writing it wasn’t easy for me. Although I had a lot of support and worked actively to cope, it still took me quite a few iterations until I was able to write a suitable piece, as the editors insisted it have a positive angle.

May we find peace and gratitude even in the smallest things in life. 

Photo by Ray Hennessy on Unsplash

5 thoughts on “7 ways of coping when someone you know has committed suicide

  1. What a heartfelt piece on such a difficult subject. You have managed to write about it in a way that encourages healing without being insensitive to the pain and the huge hole that suicide leaves. This year alone, I’ve also received news of two teenagers in our locality who died by suicide. It’s just too incomprehensible. Thank you so much for writing this.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Perhaps it’s cliche, but I do think time is a great healer. The question then remains, how does one get through the time, or ride out the time? Getting support, allowing yourself to be helped, that is very important, I think.

        Liked by 1 person

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