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Coping with Loss

When you have lost someone you love, the grief can seem unbearable. Learning new ways to cope can feel too difficult, finding the time and energy for self-care too impossible and reaching out too painful. If the loss of your loved one is due to suicide, all of this may be magnified with the added weight of the stigma suicide carries.

Here are four tips about coping and self-care to help you move through the darkness on a path towards healing:

Tip No. 1: Know that it is not your fault.

If someone you love died by suicide, it is common to question yourself and wonder what you could have done or said differently. There is a heavy load of blame and guilt that accompanies this type of loss. The decision to end their life was not your fault and you are not responsible. This may take a lot of time and therapy to come to terms with, but it is an important lesson to help move past the feelings of guilt.

Tip No. 2: Allow yourself to grieve.

There is no right or wrong way to grieve, no time limit or standard. Take your time, be gentle with yourself and do what feels right for your own healing. You may feel angry, abandoned, sad, confused, and even relieved. One day you could feel as if you understand why they made the decision to end their life, the next day completely confused. Take your time, and make sure to reach out for support.

Tip No. 3: Rely on your support system.

Due to the stigma surrounding suicide, reaching out can be difficult. You may worry you will be judged as a bad partner, parent or spouse, you may worry your loved one will be judged unfairly, you may worry about reactions that people will have when you disclose the truth. All of these are valid concerns and create one more barrier to reaching out for help. Know that you are not alone. There are many people in our community who have lost a loved one to suicide and many options for connection, including monthly support groups and private counseling.

Tip No. 4: Educate yourself.

Unfortunately, society is still battling the stigma associated with suicide, but remarkably, we have come a long way in creating a safer space to talk about issues surrounding mental health and suicide, such as depression and anxiety. There are a number of books, podcasts and Ted Talks that cover these once taboo subjects. You may never know why your loved one made the choice to end their life but educating yourself may help you to understand what they were going through, helping with your healing and expanding your knowledge so that you can share and advocate for others who may be struggling with similar experiences.

If you are someone you know has lost a loved one to suicide, Suicide Prevention Network (SPN) has resources for support. SPN offers Loss Support group the first Tuesday of the month 3:30-5:00 p.m. at the South Lake Tahoe Public Library on 1000 Rufus Allen Blvd. If you cannot make it to support group or feel more comfortable with one-on-one support, peer support services are also available.

Lisa Utzig Schafer is the Program Coordinator for El Dorado County and can be reached at lschafer@spnawareness.org or 530.600.6520. For more information and resources, please visit spnawareness.org.