I woke up to this message today:
“Close friend of mine killed himself last week. Struggling with this. A wonderful friend, much loved by many. We are all reeling. Fuck.”
“That is shitty indeed. So many crappy thoughts fly through heads of those left behind when someone you know and love suicides.”
I’ve known this guy for a while – mostly from afar – skype chats and messages, emails and social media interactions. One thing I know about him is that he is a brilliant writer – coming out of the world of international PR and Crisis Management. And so I asked him this:
“What do you think you do well that could focus some of your grief and overwhelm and that could potentially help other friends who are reeling? And I am being cheeky – I am thinking about “I am a fake” – your written piece that has stayed with me for so long… Could you write and obit as a tribute to all the things you loved and enjoyed doing with him? Pretty high chance you’ll have wet face while doing so… in the endless pursuit for happiness we can forget to sit and immerse ourselves (at appropriate times) in the sadness, loss and confusion that often comes after a suicide!”
Shock, denial, anger, guilt, confusion, self-loathing, overwhelming grief, sadness, crying, questioning, did I say guilt about what could’ve been done to stop it? These are just some of the things that can happen when someone you love kills themselves.
The aftershock of suicide is far broader than most could imagine. It’s the dirty, shameful secret that surviving loved ones struggle to come to terms with. Dealing with these feelings as well as all the other murky stuff that moves into your mind when someone you love dies is important.
Forget the pursuit of happiness. Give yourself permission to feel your loss, to cry and weep, to beat your chest, to rage against the machine, to shout at the sky.
Sit down and write all the things you love about the person who has died. Capture the memory of your experiences together… all the stupid things you’ve done, the great conversations, the sensational times you had together, how you helped each other in times of need.
Forgive yourself – whether you “could’ve/should’ve done something” or not! There is nothing that you can do to change what has happened.
With the strongest possible invitation, bordering on imploring, allow yourself the time and space to grieve. Be sad, experience the vast array of emotions that you feel. Know that they will stay with you, while you hold them in your memory.
Write as much as you want, can and need. Be with them in your memory, your heart, your mind. Tell their stories, speak their name.
And in time, may your overwhelming grief and loss be eased as you find a new way to live without them in your world!
Jacqui Chaplin is a Lifetime & End-of-Life Commemoration Specialist (a funeral celebrant among other things) based in Melbourne, Australia. She loves capturing stories about the nature of life and being human, as well as, celebrating and commemorating well lived lives and lives that have ended. Jacqui has a passion for bringing the conversations that many of us find difficult to think about, let alone speak about, out in the open so we can see how our stories, values and beliefs influence our attitudes.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.