Mourning is often lonely, no matter how a loved one died. One of the best pieces of advice I received after my husband ended his life was to create a "circle of support" around myself. My circle was (and is) composed of individuals, groups, and professionals who played specific roles in my journey to healing. Family members and friends were the first people I turned to for help. The members of my church helped me in countless small and large ways. One of the most touching gifts was a card from a neighbor I had never met. Enclosed was two hundred dollars.
I had to work with my employer, handle final details, and notify others. The whole thing was overwhelming, but any kindness that was shown by those around me made a big difference. I learned that, in general, people do want to help, but sometimes they do not know how. Now, I ask for specific kinds of help and usually receive it. Joining the Alliance of Hope for suicide loss survivors broadened my circle and put me in touch with people who know the aftermath of suicide is complex and traumatic and that it takes a long time to process all of the associated emotions. The Alliance provides an information-rich web site and blog as well as a clinically moderated community forum. Here, survivors share the burden of each other’s pain and give and receive encouragement and hope every day.
Writing about what happened and reading what others who have experienced similar heartbreak have to say is one of the best ways to seek healing. In fact, it is when we first begin to reach out to encourage others that we can be assured our healing has started. By giving to others, we receive strength and compassion, a sense of belonging and survival. Talking is important, too. Attending local Survivors of Suicide (SOS) support group meetings helped me during the first year, but I learned these resources are not always available. Mine disbanded due to so few people attending, but I found out that hospitals, funeral homes, and even churches sometimes have general grief groups. I went to several groups specific to suicide at mental health centers in Atlanta,
My family doctor and several counselors guided me in different ways at different times. I found it made a difference when I worked with professionals trained in traumatic grief or who had experience working with suicide survivors, but I learned some useful things from all of them. By creating a circle of support, I began to build a new life that has purpose, happiness, hope and - most importantly - a way to cherish the love I shared with my husband.
Activity: In the middle of a blank sheet of paper, write the word “me.” Think about who or what can support you through your grief journey (church, pastor, family, friends, doctor, counselor, local or online support groups, pets, and so on) and write those around the circle. What other resources are available to you? Who can you turn to when some of these are not available? Support makes this difficult journey easier.
Way for Hope
Losing someone you love is difficult, but it can mean a lot to hear from others traveling similar paths.
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Links of Value:
Alliance of Hope for Suicide Loss Survivors
National Alliance on Mental Illness
Word of God
"My Story" Big Daddy Weave
"Hope in Front of Me"
The Joy FM
Traumatic loss or preexisting conditions can worsen mental health. Use this info graphic to find help.
"Take Charge of Your Mental Health" - a free download from www.nami.org: