When coping with grief, you will know what is best for you and what you need. Keep in mind that your coping mechanism will change and may continue to change as time goes on.
Following are suggestions for coping with grief. There are a number of resources on the Postvention website to help through this tough process. Know that your family, friends and colleagues are all there to support you, and there is always someone willing to lend an ear.
- Accept offers of help. Surround yourself with loving, competent friends who are quick to listen and slow to give advice
- Tears are extremely healthy. Drink a lot of water and keep them coming – they are nature’s way of washing away the toxins that build up from stress
- Get as much sleep as you can, but avoid excessive use of alcohol or medication
- If you must drive a car, be careful! You are distracted and forgetful, and as such, very much at risk when you get behind the wheel of a car. Make a conscious effort to put your grief on hold when you fasten your seat belt. Postpone it until you get where you are going
- If you find you are being overcome with sadness and tears that interrupt your work or other necessary activities, set aside time (similar to an appointment) to deal with it. It may just allow you to get through the rough spot, since grief cannot be ignored but may allow itself to be postponed. Then keep that appointment –go to your room, lay down, and cry until you can no longer cry. In this way, you will have taken control of your grief, instead of vice versa. This may be easier said than done but is worth a try
- Reach out for help. Although you may not be ready to go for counselling or attend a support group, make initial contacts. It may be comforting to know what kinds of help are available when you are ready. If you decide to see a counsellor, find one who has experience with trauma and grief issues. If a counsellor makes you uncomfortable, find another one immediately
- Be patient with yourself. Wear out the “why?”, the anger, the guilt, and know that whatever you are feeling is normal. Don’t let anyone tell you how to feel or what to do. Grief is as individual as a fingerprint. Find your own way through it
- Many people who are contemplating ending their lives do so by a thought process of de-valuing their own existence. They may perceive themselves as a burden, and – although we may see it very differently – feel they are doing what is best for the family. If your loved one has been very troubled, has led a chaotic existence of physical, mental and/or emotional problems that led to hopeless despair, you may take comfort in knowing that his or her suffering has surely ended, and they are now at peace. This sounds obvious but is worth a reminder as you go through the days of your new reality. Try to turn the energy spent caring for that person toward caring for yourself, one day, one hour, one minute at a time.
After suicide we are in shock, often lost and confused. Taking a day at a time will help you through the dark times. Receiving love and support, having people hear your pain and being acknowledged are all key points of the healing process.
Following are suggestions for survivors of suicide.
- Know you can survive. You may not think so, but you can.
- Struggle with “why” it happened until you no longer need to know “why” or until you are satisfied with partial answers.
- Know you may feel overwhelmed by the intensity of your feelings but all your feelings are normal.
- Anger, guilt, confusion, forgetfulness are common responses. You are not crazy, you are in mourning.
- Be aware you may feel appropriate anger at the person, at the world, at God, at yourself. It’s OK to express it.
- You may feel guilty for what you think you did or did not do. Guilt can turn into regret, through forgiveness.
- Having suicidal thoughts is common; it does not mean that you will act on them.
- Remember to take one moment or one hour or one day at a time.
- Find a good listener with whom to share.
- Remember the choice was not yours. No one is the sole influence in another’s life.
- Expect setbacks. If emotions return like a tidal wave, you may only be experiencing a remnant of grief, an unfinished piece.
- Try to put off major decisions.
- Give yourself permission to get professional help.
- Be aware of the pain of family and friends.
- Be patient with yourself and with others who may not understand.
- Set your own limits and learn to say no.
- Steer clear of people who want to tell you what or how to feel.
- Know that there are support groups that can be helpful, such as Compassionate Friends or Survivors of Suicide.
- Call on your personal faith to help you through.
- It is common to experience physical reactions to your grief, i.e. headaches, loss of appetite, inability to sleep.
- The willingness to laugh with others and at yourself is healing.
- Wear out your questions, anger, guilt or other feelings until you can let them go. Letting go does not mean forgetting!
- Know that you will never be the same again, but you can survive and even go beyond just surviving.
For more suggestions, please visit our Resources Page for a number of helpful readings, guides and websites.