Joplin, Mo. — Losing a loved one is often sudden, shocking and painful. The grief process is always difficult, but grieving the loss of a loved one who died by suicide can be complex and traumatic. Adopting coping strategies and resources can be a step in the right direction.
Del Camp, the Ozark Center Chief Clinical Officer, says, “Suicide is never about one thing. It seems that way, but it’s never about one thing. People feel severe pain, you know, just emotional pain, they feel hopeless, that things will change and they feel like they have an answer and that’s suicide and that’s the only answer that’s available.” People who have lost loved ones by suicide face the same painful emotions as others who grieve a loss. Camp says, ” Death is difficult when you know it’s coming. We have a chance to sort of marshal our resources and we sort of know it’s going to happen and there is a degree of relief that happens.”
But when it happens, unexpectedly, it can be traumatic. It is a complex circumstance, and people grieve the loss in a number of ways–shock, pain and in some situations relief that their loved one is free from pain. Camp says, “Particularly, in the life of a child, if there’s someone who lives with a serious mental illness. There is chaos that happens in that family and mental illness can lead to things like neglect and abuse to children. And so children can sometimes feel a sense of relief when that parental figure has suicide and then they feel guilty for feeling that sense of relief. If we are not direct with them in an appropriate way about what happened, oftentimes those kids minds are very imaginative and they tend to blame themselves for a lot of things. Adults have a different way we have to have a conversation about this. Grief can be very complicated and that’s why it’s helpful to have someone to bounce things off of. Because we were built to be able to effectively navigate these experiences as difficult as they are. But there are some shortcuts that we try to take that help in the short run, but sort of interrupt the progress that our minds, our bodies need to go through in order to sort of effectively resolve those immediate feelings.”
There are a number of resources available to help navigate the grieving process. Dale says, “Dougy Project is a great website, it has information about how schools can address suicde, there is information there about a sibling of someone who may have committed suicide or died by suicide. There’s information about parents and how to talk to their kids about someone who may have died of suicide. Also the Ozark Center has a number of counselors that are available and well trained to be able to help people walk through the process of grief and how it affects us and how we can grow from it.”
If you know anyone struggling with their mental health and they need someone to talk to, we urge you to call the suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-TALK.