One learns to live with the loss, the tragedy, the waste and the gaping hole in the fabric of one’s life. There is no closure; there cannot be without answers. I want to remember him all my life, vividly: his laughter, the smell of his favorite coffee, his moments of joy, his humility and his integrity.”
If you have lost someone to suicide, the first thing you should know is that you’re not alone. Each year over 30,000 people in the United States die by suicide – their devastated family and friends they leave behind are known as “survivors.” There are millions of survivors who, like us, are trying to cope with this heartbreaking loss.
It can be so powerful to connect with other survivors. And such a relief to be able to talk openly about the suicide with people who really understand. I write this for a couple of reasons. First, it helps me to heal by sharing my own personal grief. Second, it is my aim to help others understand us and for those survivors of suicide, to begin to focus on themselves to heal and gain support.
For so many survivors, a crucial part of their healing process is the support and sense of connection they feel through sharing their grief with other survivors. The most common way this sharing occurs is through survivor support groups. These groups provide a safe place where survivors can share their experiences and support each other.
It is natural to feel a bit unsure about going to your first support group meeting. In No Time to Say Goodbye, one facilitator explains what you can expect:
“We sit in a circle, with each person giving a brief introduction: first name, who was lost, when and how it happened. I then ask the people who are attending for the first time to begin, because they usually have an urgent need to talk. The rest of the group reaches out to them by describing their own experiences and how they are feeling. The new people realize they are not alone with their nightmare. By comparing their situations with others, they also begin to understand that they don’t have a monopoly on pain.”
Some survivors attend a support group almost immediately, some wait for years; others attend for a year or two and then go only occasionally — on anniversaries, holidays, or particularly difficult days. You may find it takes a few meetings before you begin to feel comfortable. Or you may find that the group setting isn’t quite right for you, but can still be a useful way to meet one or two fellow survivors who become new, lifelong friends based on the common bond of understanding the pain and tragedy of suicide loss.
We are each in charge of our own journey of healing. May you always be traveling further.”