Observing International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day
Today, November 18th is International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day. It is a day where people from across the globe can come together to recognize the profound impact traumatic grief leaves in its wake. It is a time to remember those loved ones who have been lost and to support survivors who live on with this often unbearable weight. There can be such a profound sense of emptiness that accompanies those who have lost loved ones to suicide. There is the yearning for the person you lost and all of the memories you can never get back again, a profound grief for all of the future experiences you will never have an opportunity to have together, and often a social isolation as you struggle to bear a weight that many people do not understand. This day brings people together across the globe to recognize the profound impact traumatic grief leaves in its wake.
What is the impact of suicide loss on loved ones?
Losing a loved one to suicide is an indescribably painful experience. It’s a loss that differs from others, often leaving survivors in a whirlwind of complex emotions – grief, confusion, guilt, and often with a multitude of unanswered questions.
Sometimes when answers do come, they leave still more questions as to what happened and how did it happen? And maybe even, what did I do wrong? What sign did I miss? If I would have done this, then that might not have happened.
In our brain’s attempt to make sense of what’s happened, it can leave us feeling angry at our lost loved one, others around them, or ourselves who “should” have done something different, so the outcome could have been different. It can relentlessly torment loved ones as they grapple a world without their loved one and without an opportunity to say goodbye. Suicide loss is devastating for all involved.
The harsh reality of suicide’s impact is stark. The World Health Organization reports that nearly 800,000 people die due to suicide annually. Each of these deaths leaves a profound effect on families, friends, and communities.
What is the impact of suicide in Canada?
In Canada, it is estimated that 12 individuals will tragically end their lives today through suicide. This devastating act leaves a ripple effect of grief and disruption in its wake. The World Health Organization estimates that for each person lost to suicide, about 10 people are deeply affected. This means that in Canada, with 12 suicides occurring daily, up to 120 people find themselves grappling with an intense state of bereavement. Beyond these immediate circles, the impact extends to an additional 120 individuals, touching lives in ways both seen and unseen.
Suicide represents a critical public health issue within our country. Particularly alarming is its prevalence among youth and young adults aged 15 to 34, where it stands as the second leading cause of death.
Data from the Public Health Agency of Canada paints a broader picture of this issue’s scope. Remarkably, 12% of Canadians have considered suicide at some point in their lifetime, with 3.1% having made an attempt. These numbers underscore the widespread nature of suicidal thoughts and actions across our communities.
There exists a notable gender disparity in suicide occurrences and attempts. Males are three times more likely to die by suicide compared to females, a trend that has shown consistency over time. However, this statistic does not fully capture the entire narrative. While men are more likely to complete suicide, women are three times more likely to attempt it. Hospitalization rates for suicide-related behaviors further illustrate this gender divide, with females being hospitalized 1.5 times more often than males. This discrepancy is often attributed to females typically choosing less immediately lethal means.
Understanding these statistics helps us grasp the magnitude and complexity of suicide as a public health issue. It highlights the need for tailored support and intervention strategies that address the unique experiences and challenges faced by different demographics within our society.
Can I heal after a suicide loss?
Often in the depths of despair the idea that any sense of healing is possible might be unbearable. Sometimes we can feel like living in devastation honours the pain that your loved one has left you with. Healing from such a profound loss is not at all a linear process. So often, survivors are given labels that tell them that they are not grieving in a socially acceptable way and leave them feeling even more hopeless.
At Lavender Counselling, we understand the nuanced complexities of grief, loss and bereavement, including the traumatic aspect to the grief that losing a loved one to suicide creates. It can be so difficult to process grief and loss as it is, but when you add the often misunderstood and taboo nature of suicide, others can avoid talking about it, or say things that hurt. People often do not know how to communicate with someone who is a survivor of suicide loss. This can make it even more difficult to receive social responses from others that feel supportive. The topic of suicide or being a survivor of suicide loss can leave well intentioned people saying things that leave you feeling misunderstood, isolated, guilty, or shamed. There can be so many “shoulds” imposed by our society on those who might be so uncomfortable that they leave you feeling shut down.
Whether it is possible to heal after a suicide loss depends on what you mean by healing. Some see healing as never thinking about your loved one again and just going on with your life, others can see healing as dedicating every moment to grieving their loved on so they can pay tribute to their honour, still others might not be sure what to do and embark on a path of self destruction. At Lavender Counselling, we consider healing as learning to co-exist with your grief. To know how to let it come when it needs to without it feeling like it will never leave.
What is the process of healing after a suicide loss?
Healing after a suicide loss involves sharing your story in a safe place, acknowledging your emotions, allowing yourself to grieve, learning to be kind to yourself and, most importantly, seeking support from those who can be supportive when you need it. Ways of coping can vary widely among individuals. For some, it’s through therapy or support groups. For others, it’s found in art, music, or connecting with nature. Every step taken towards expressing and processing your emotions is a useful step towards healing.
How to find support after a suicide loss?
Sadly, many report feeling alone as they grapple with the realities of traumatic grief. Today, on International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day, we extend our support to all those touched by this tragedy. We know that surrounding yourself with social supports who can hold space for your experiences and understand your truth is one of the most important things you can do as you seek to coexist with the grief.
The International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day community is hosting many events and vigils today around the world. These gatherings are powerful opportunities to connect with others who have shared similar experiences. They also serve as occasions to commemorate the lives of those we’ve lost and to spread awareness about the importance of suicide prevention. Finding support from someone who understands surviving a suicide loss, and where you feel comfortable to express yourself are the most important aspects.
Lavender Counselling works extensively with those who have experienced traumatic grief. We support them in both individual and group therapy. Often, people new to therapy find it a less intimidating way to try counselling. Group therapy, which can seem intimidating at first, can be powerful in reducing the isolation that traumatic loss creates. To have others who have experienced similar things share with you their experiences, can feel soothing. Many people say, I would never have wished for others to feel anything at all like what I’ve felt, but knowing that they have, is the most helpful thing I’ve been involved in on my journey.
How do I cope as a survivor of suicide loss?
Coping with the loss of a loved one to suicide is best done in a place where you feel comfortable that you can share what is going on for you. Some consistent parts of the process include:
- Telling your story: It is so important that when you decide to tell your story, you do it in a way that helps you move through the emotions that match the story you are sharing. Sharing your story with someone (or a small group) who can provide a response that allows you to feel seen, heard, and understood is an essential part of the healing process.
- Expressing Emotions: Often people feel like they have to keep it together for other loved ones. Or, they feel so numb and flat that they don’t know how to connect with their emotions anymore. It’s essential to the healing process to allow yourself to feel and express your emotions as they arise. Teasing apart what emotion you’re feeling and why you’re feeling it while at the same time making sense of why you’re feeling this emotion. Writing, art, and music can be powerful outlets.
- Reconnecting to yourself: Self-care that honours the emotions coming up inside you and that does not put pressure on you to heal in any certain way or in any certain time frame is the most important place to start. Allowing yourself to engage in activities that nourish your body, mind and spirit again takes time and moving slowly and compassionately matters.
- Creating Rituals or Memorials: Establishing personal rituals or participating in memorials can offer a way to honor your loved one and process your loss.
- Seeking Professional Help: Engaging with a counselor or therapist can provide a safe space to process your grief and to start to move towards renewal and hope. Group therapy helps you connect with others who have had similar experiences and can provide comfort and understanding is an essential part of the healing process.
A Message of Hope
We believe in the power of connection and the strength of the human spirit to coexist with grief. As we observe this significant day, our message at Lavender Counselling is one of care and understanding. The path of healing is without a doubt challenging; it can also be filled with moments of strength, understanding, and profound personal growth. By supporting each other, we can navigate this journey together.
If you or someone you know is struggling with the aftermath of suicide loss, please reach out. Our doors and hearts are always open. We are here to support you on your path towards remembering, honouring, healing, supporting, and healing.
Our mission at Lavender Counselling is not just to provide support, but also to foster a community where every individual’s journey is honored and supported. In this spirit and to commemorate this day, Lavender Counselling has become a member of British Columbia Bereavement Helpline, BCBH. The BC Bereavement Helpline provides compassionate listening, support, information and referrals to resources. Since 1988 this provincial helpline has assisted over 40,000 calls and emails. Let’s use this day to remind ourselves and others that in the face of loss, there is still hope, and together, we can find the strength to move forward.
For those interested, we offer a 5 day clinically-facilitated traumatic grief group that allows participants to share their stories in a way that is not only healing, but that also allows the group to respond. The therapeutic giving and receiving of support with clinical facilitation helps reduce the isolation so frequently experienced by those surviving traumatic loss. If you have interest in this group, please reach out to email@example.com to arrange a complimentary conversation to see if this group might be a fit for you.