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How suicide can affect survivors
by Mel May 23rd 2009, 01:29 AM

Article featured in Avatar - Volume 1, Issue 4 (September 2007).

How suicide can affect survivors
by Mel and Xamed (Jas)

Suicide has a heart wrenching effect on its survivors. A survivor of suicide is defined as one who has lost a loved one to suicide. That said, the effect a suicide has can reach far beyond survivors and extend to an entire community.

When a person commits suicide, their community is left to survive in the wake of a death - a chosen death. They are usually unable to understand and accept the victims motivation.

"The question of "Why?" lasts a lifetime." - Unknown

In addition to the grief normally associated with a death, they are left with a myriad of other emotions, such as anger, confusion, guilt, resentment, and remorse. They may also feel great sorrow over unresolved events and issues. These emotions can be overwhelming, but the stigma that still surrounds suicide and its survivors can make it hard for them to deal with their grief in a healthy manner.

Anger is one of the emotions most commonly related to death, especially suicide. Anger may be directed at the victim for their actions, towards the survivors themselves for not noticing signs or 'doing enough', or towards the mental health system. If they are religious, they may also be angry with God.

Survivors may also feel like a failure, because a loved one or acquaintance has chosen to commit suicide, and wonder constantly if they could have affected the situation and kept the victim from choosing death. Some fear forming new relationships (romantic or otherwise) due to the severe pain their relationship with the victim has caused them.

Something very important to keep in mind is the increased risk survivors are at for many things, including suicide. Risk for suicide especially applies to adolescents who have lost a friend to suicide - they are approximately three times more likely to commit suicide themselves. Suicide survivors are also at higher risk for mental disorders such as clinical depression and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). They are more likely to employ self destructive behaviors such as substance abuse or self harm, and illegal behaviors like shoplifting or speeding while driving.

Many religious survivors are also confronted with tough questions due to the negative viewpoint numerous religions have on suicide. It is normal, yet difficult, to question spiritual things that they have believed for many years. The victim may be denied funeral rites or burial in a churches graveyard, which can seriously affect a families need for closure.

Since a good percentage of completed suicides occur at home, it is often a family member that discovers the body. Family may have to clean up the area and deal with such things as blood stains or bone fragments. It can be extremely difficult for survivors to handle being in the house or room the victim lived or commit suicide in. Some families move to avoid unpleasant memories.The person who discovered the victim can experience reoccurring flashbacks of the discovery for years after it occurs.

If you, personally, are having suicidal thoughts and doubt that the people around you would be affected, try asking yourself the following questions:

1. How I would feel if someone close to me committed suicide?
2. How would the loss of somebody close to me impact my life?

The answers to those questions aren't pleasant. Also, the fact of the matter is that just thinking about the way you might feel pales in comparison to how you would feel if it actually happened.

The grieving process of a suicide survivor never truly ends. They are left to live with the loss for the rest of their lives. Suicide is a forever solution to a temporary problem - but the forever is something only the survivors, not the victim, have to deal with.

Last edited by Mel; April 4th 2010 at 08:15 AM.
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