Dealing with a Family’s Grief: The Aftermath of a Young Person’s Suicide
Suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people between the ages of five and 18, according to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. This is an alarming reality and focuses on the fact that many, many families face the tragedy of a young person’s suicide each year. Ultimately, a family must deal with the grief associated with suicide survivor loss, collectively as a unit and individually among its members.
Healthy Coping Strategies for a Grieving Family
The stark reality is that the aftermath of a young person’s suicide is physically, emotionally, and mentally grueling for all family members. There are six important coping strategies that can be helpful in mitigating the physical, emotional, and mental trauma and toll taken on a family by a child’s suicide. These are:
- Keep connected
- Grieve collectively and individually
- Be prepared for unexpected painful reminders
- Don’t rush the bereavement process
- Expect setbacks
- Consider group therapy for families impacted by suicide
A key way in which a family grieving the suicide of a one of their own, specifically a child, can ultimately heal is to keep connected with one another. Sadly, when a child or teenager in a family takes his or her life, a family unit sometimes fractures. This breakup begins with a communication breakdown.
In order to stay within a healthy bereavement process, family members need to keep lines of communication between themselves open. That does not mean family members need to continually talk. It is important for all family members to have time to themselves. In addition, it is healthy for members of family who’ve lost one of their own by suicide to not talk with one another here and there. However, silence and a lack of communication between family members cannot be the status quo within a family if they hope to heal.
Grieve Collectively and Individually
Another reality about the post-suicide bereavement process is that no two family members will grief in the same manner. Thus, a family mourning and bereaving the loss of one of their own by suicide need to understand that they both need to grieve together collectively while at the same time grieving individual.
Collectively grieving the suicide of a family member can include coming together and sharing thoughts and feelings at home. Family activities of some sort can be organized as part of the overall collective grieving process.
When it comes to individual grieving, each family member needs to plot his or her own course. Younger children will need some level of guidance in understanding and undertaking the bereavement process. All family members will need support in their individual efforts at grieving.
Be Prepared for Unexpected Painful Reminders
Grieving the loss of a family member by suicide will include encountering an array of painful reminders that are to be expected. For example, celebrating an important holiday after the suicide of a loved one can be painful. However, there will be unexpected painful reminders of the family member and his or her death by suicide.
It is challenging to list in advance what may provide to be unexpected painful reminders of a family member’s suicide. With that noted, a person not only needs to recognize that these unexpected painful reminders will arise but needs to understand that there is nothing unnatural about experiencing them. Simply, the unexpected needs to be expected – and a person should not browbeat his or her self when this occurs.
Don’t Rush the Bereavement Process
As noted a moment ago, everyone grieves in his or her own way. On a related note, when grieving the loss of a family member by suicide, some family will work through the bereavement process faster than others.
When grieving the loss by suicide of a family member, a person must understand that the bereavement process cannot be rushed. A grieving individual only makes the process of grieving harder when he or she sets arbitrary timelines on the bereavement process. In addition, a person cannot compare and contrast the speed of his or her bereavement process with what is happening in regard to other family members.
Grieving the suicide of a family member is not some sort of linear process that goes from one consecutive milestone to the next in an even flow. No cliché accurately describes the bereavement process. For example, it’s not even a matter of one step forward and two steps backward. As mentioned more than once, every person in every situation grieves uniquely.
What a person must be prepared for are setbacks in the grieving process. A grieving person might be able to anticipate some setbacks while other setbacks may come out of the blue and blindside a bereaved individual.
The key to dealing with setbacks is to avoid feeling as if some sort of failure has occurred. Setbacks are part of the overall process of healthy grieving and moving on down the pathway to healing after the suicide of a family member.
Consider Group Therapy for Families Impacted by Suicide
Finally, when dealing with a family’s grief after the suicide of a young one of their own, professional assistance may well be warranted. Suicide survivor loss grief therapy comes in a number of different modalities. Specific family members might benefit from individual grief therapy, others might benefit from group grief therapy. There exist specialized programs through which a family can collectively participate in group therapy.
Guest blog by Emily Kil. Emily Kil operates a biohazard cleaning company in Los Angeles. Through her work, Emily helps families clean their homes shortly after a loved one’s passing.