Grief and Dealing With Suicide

By: Matthew Funeral Home
Tuesday, May 28, 2024

When faced with the loss of a loved one, the grief can be devastating. But when a loved one takes their own life, the grief that families feel afterward can often be complicated. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, there were over 49,000 deaths by suicide in 2022. In the same year, there were an estimated 1.7 million attempts made. Mourning the death of a loved one who passed from a suicide attempt can be a painful grieving process for you and your family. May is mental health awareness month, so we felt that it would be an appropriate time to provide information to our community on suicide prevention and grief. Below, we will discuss suicide information, as well as resources for families and those struggling with suicidal ideation. 

Suicide and Younger People

Suicide is the third most common cause of death among teens (ages 12-19) in the US. Part of what makes suicide even more painful is that it is often unexpected, especially from the younger generations. Suicide in teens and young adults can often be an unexpected shock because death at a young age seems so unlikely.

Blaming Yourself

When a loved one dies, it is common to put some of the blame on yourself. People often say they should have spent more time with the deceased, or done things differently. In cases of suicide, loved ones may feel this self-doubt and self-defeat even more. They may blame themselves for not being there for the deceased.
 It is common for family members of suicide victims to say things like “I was too hard on them” or “I should have seen that something was wrong.” You shouldn’t blame yourself for your loved one’s suicide. Sometimes you might not have been aware of your loved one’s mental health. Unfortunately, that is a very likely circumstance. In many cases, suicide can be prevented. But that doesn’t mean that their suicide is on you. 

Signs of Suicidal Ideation

There are many factors and signs that a loved one may be contemplating suicide. Below, we will discuss some of the different factors that may lead to a suicide attempt. 

Health-Related Risk Factors

Mental health can play a massive role in the overall likelihood of suicidal ideation. Those living with depression, anxiety, BPD, and schizophrenia are more likely to consider it. Additionally, those with serious health disorders may consider suicide as well. Lastly, those who suffer from traumatic brain injuries are more likely to consider suicide. 

Environmental Risk Factors

Environmental risk factors can come from a stressful home, school, or work life. Harassment, bullying, abuse, relationship issues, and more can also be a factor. Graphic, traumatic, and sensationalized violent events in their life can also increase the likelihood of a suicide attempt. Signs of abuse, neglect, physical trauma, or emotional harm may also be considered environmental factors. Substance abuse, whether drugs or alcohol, can increase the risk of suicidal ideation.
One of the biggest environmental risk factors is access to firearms. If you own a firearm, be sure that your children and other members of the house cannot easily access it. Keep the firearm properly locked in a gun safe. Never store a gun loaded.

Suicide Rates in the LGBTQ+

According to the Trevor Project, young LGBTQ+ people are roughly 4 times more likely to attempt suicide than their peers. A survey they performed in 2023 found that 41% of LGBTQ+ young people seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year. 
These high rates are often due to social, familial, and societal pressures to subscribe to heteronormativity. You are not inherently more at risk of suicidal ideation because you are LGBTQ+, but rather because of the stigma and marginalization surrounding being queer. It is not a choice to be gay, and for many young people, it can be dangerous to come out to those in their community. Some young LGBTQ+ people do not feel safe to come out to family, for fear of being disowned or kicked out out. 

Depression and Suicide

While not every suicide is caused by depression, it is often a major factor. Depression has a variety of different signs and symptoms, so it can often be overlooked if you aren’t aware of what to look for. Sometimes, you won’t even know that your loved one is depressed. They might not know it themselves.
Some symptoms of depression include sad, empty feelings; anxiety; hopelessness; pessimism; feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness; loss of appetite; overeating; lack of interest in hobbies or activities once found pleasurable; loss of sex drive; insomnia; excessive sleeping; thoughts of suicide; attempted suicide; slowed thinking or speech; crying spells; and more.
Some people will try to hide their depression from loved ones. For some, they may not want to burden others with their emotions. Stigmas around mental health in their community may also be a reason they may not be open about their depression. You should not blame yourself for not knowing that your loved one was depressed.

Sudden Loss

Suicides often affect us so much because they are usually very sudden. It is often unexpected, and seemingly out of nowhere. There is a big difference in how we are affected by grief between a sudden suicide and an elderly family member who has been sick for a long time. While they are both terrible losses, we are aware that a sick grandparent may not live much longer. We have time to prepare for their passing. We have time to say goodbye and ready ourselves for the empty seat at the table on holidays. Suicide can come seemingly out of the blue; when we aren’t prepared for it. And because suicide can often affect young people, we may not expect to say goodbye so soon. 

Stigmas of Suicide

Suicide has a very harsh stigma around it. To many people, suicide is a sin, or is seen as a crime. But most people who attempt suicide are usually not in full control of their thoughts or actions. Research shows that about 60 percent of adolescents, and about 90 percent of adults, who die by suicide have an underlying mental and/or alcohol or substance abuse disorder. 
Part of this stigma is the language used when talking about suicide. Many people will say that someone “committed suicide.” But the word “committed” is often used in talking about crime or wrongdoing. Experts suggest using less stigmatized phrasing such as “They completed suicide” or “They died by suicide.” These phrasings take the blame off of the victim. 

Suicide and “Selfishness”

Some people may consider suicide as a selfish act. But, try to remember that it is a choice not usually done with a clear mind. Suicide is not an easy choice to make. Those suffering from the physical, emotional, or mental anguish and despair to consider suicide have experienced a lot of pain to come to that decision. To call suicide a selfish act makes light of the complexity of this loss and the events leading up to it.

Survivors of Suicide Loss

Losing someone to suicide can be difficult. You may blame them, yourself, or others for their passing. It is important to understand that there are a lot of complexities of suicide. You may not fully realize why they came to this decision. Talk with your loved ones about the deceased. It can be helpful to have a close-knit support system with your family or friends after the sudden loss that suicide brings on. You may also want to seek out grief counseling or a support group of people who have also lost a loved one to suicide.

Suicide Prevention & Resources

Suicide, in many cases, can be prevented. If you or your loved one is exhibiting depressive behaviors, expressing suicidal thoughts, or abusing alcohol or other substances to the point where it is dangerously affecting them; seek counseling or group help for them or yourself. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention offers resources for those contemplating suicide, their families, and those who lost loved ones to suicide. If you or your loved one is depressed or contemplating suicide, call the National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988. Their website has many resources for individuals and families dealing with suicide. For queer folks and their families, consider looking at the Trevor Project website as well. They have several resources tailored to the LGBTQ+ experience that may be helpful.

The author of this post is not a professional therapist or counselor. For more personalized grief care, find a grief counselor that is right for you. For our Grief Resource Center, written by Dr. Bill Webster, click here
For over 50 years, Matthew Funeral Home has been serving the Staten Island community. We can help with almost every aspect of your loved one’s memorial service. Our family is here to serve yours, every step of the way.

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