When your spouse dies by suicide: Finding healing and community
What you need to know:
- Avoid taking responsibility for your spouse’s death by suicide.
- It will also take a long time before you can envision certain possibilities such as love and dating again.
- If the immediate aftermath gets too tough, speak to a professional counselor.
If your spouse is suicidal, there is the unfortunate possibility that they might take their life despite your efforts to help them recover. It is also possible that your spouse may commit suicide way before you spot any tell-tale signs. Coping with the death by suicide of a loved one will take a heavy toll on you. However, there are certain steps you can take to ensure that you don’t lose yourself even as you mourn.
The immediate aftermath
Avoid taking responsibility for your spouse’s death by suicide. According to Deborah Serani, a psychologist and the author of Living with Depression, you must hold very tightly to the fact that you aren’t responsible for your spouse’s suicide in any way. This will allow you to grieve and heal properly. “Don’t set a grieving timeline. During your mourning season, take time before you can put your sadness and loss to rest. It will also take a long time before you can envision certain possibilities such as love and dating again,” she says. If the immediate aftermath gets too tough, speak to a professional counselor.
You had created memories with your partner that may not be easy to let go of. These can include wedding anniversaries, birthdays, holidays, and annual family get-togethers. “Bear in mind that new events, experiences, and moments without your spouse will bring down heavy bouts of sadness and painful memories,” says Ms. Serani. To cushion yourself, she advises that you prepare for these occasions ahead. “Prepare how you will go through the calendar dates you marked together to avoid suffering heavy traumatic reactions.” If some events and occasions are too painful to hold alone, consider shutting them down. “Do not feel guilty if you opt to cancel occasions that are too painful to continue observing alone,” she says.
If you have children, it might be difficult to reveal to them that their mother died by suicide. If you must reveal this detail, you will need to know what part of the whole information they are ready to consume and understand. You may overwhelm them if you openly narrate what happened or break their trust by withholding the truth. “While they will feel ashamed, anxious, or partly guilty, you’ll need to gradually disclose what happened in a language and manner they can comprehend,” says child therapist Teresia Muragu. “For instance, after some time has passed, you can bring up the topic of depression, potential effects on victims which include suicide, and let them pick the cue,” she says. Pay attention to ensure they have healed. Children whose parents attempt suicide or die by suicide, research shows, are likely to make attempts on their own lives.
Family and friends
You will need a support system comprising of your closest family members and friends. According to Dr. Jennifer Ashton, a medical practitioner and the author of Life After Suicide: Finding Courage, Comfort, Community After Unthinkable Loss, you will get a clear glimpse into the recovery process if you create bonds with family and friends, and social associates who have gone through a similar loss. Additionally, there are social support groups for spouses bereaved through suicide that you can join for emotional support and companionship. This will help you learn from other people who have dealt with similar losses. “Hearing another person’s stories of love, loss, and healing will serve as a powerful tool against any pervasive feeling of isolation most survivors of death suicide suffer from,” she says.
People will talk. They will find reasons why your spouse decided to die by suicide. You may be the common denominator for the death of your spouse. “Victims of suicide are not well accepted by society. Death by suicide is regarded as less worthy of being marked and mourned,” says Susan Gacheru, a family therapist based in Nakuru. “On the other hand, those who are left behind are saddled with judgment and stigma and seen as the primary reason why someone chose to take their own life, or as the catalyst to the depression that pushed them to suicide. You may find yourself concealing evidence or information about your spouse’s death. Do not succumb to feeling shamed by your spouse’s death or get compressed by social fear to not grieve your loved one,” she says.