Everyone experiences grief differently and it can affect us all in various ways.
The grief process is never easy, but the grief experienced when losing someone to suicide can be especially complex and traumatic. That makes looking after yourself and your own mental health and wellbeing even more important during this challenging time of emotional upheaval.
Below are some self-care tips that you may find helpful to look after your mental health and wellbeing during this very difficult time.
Lean on friends and family members for support
Now is the time to talk to those who you can trust and make you feel supported. People experiencing bereavement following a suicide often need more support than others, as often there are many unanswered questions that complicate the grieving process. Often loved ones want to help but they may not be sure exactly what to say or do, so don’t be afraid to let them know what you need, even if it’s just someone to sit in silence with.
Sharing your experience with those you trust can help with the grieving process and make you feel less alone. Whether support comes from a family member, trusted friend or counsellor, surround yourself with people who are willing to support you or even just provide a listening ear when you need someone to lean on. Talking with loved ones or those who knew the person can be a lovely way to remember their life and assist with the healing process. It can often be helpful to maintain regular contact with your support network as you navigate through this healing process. Grief can trigger unfamiliar emotions and feelings, so having your support network close frequently will allow you to tell them what you need day by day.
Understand your emotions
The grieving process after a suicide can be very intense, almost disabling in fact. Accepting a loved one’s death is not an easy task, and it’s perfectly normal to experience a range of mixed emotions and feelings. Some of these emotions may include shock, disbelief, guilt, anger, blaming and shame to name a few. It’s important to remember that grief is not a sign of weakness or poor coping skills but rather a healthy and normal part of the healing process.
As the process of grieving unfolds, it’s not uncommon for people to focus more on the purpose of their lives, including their relationships, thoughts and even their plans for the future. Don’t hesitate to talk through these feelings with someone you trust, as they can help you find positive ways to move forward.
Everyone experiences loss differently and there is no right or wrong way to handle grief. Grief has no specific timeline, so it’s important to let it run its course. When a death is caused by suicide, the grieving process can sometimes feel compounded by the stigma that is attached to suicide. It can be useful to talk to family members and loved ones to tell them how you feel about what information is disclosed. This could help to prevent any private details being talked about publicly.
Resuming even small parts of your routine can help you to cope with grief, giving you a sense of normalcy in your life. Getting back into a healthy routine can help you to cope with intense emotions.
Even though you may not always feel like it, it’s perfectly okay to take time for yourself by doing something you enjoy and ensure that you take care of your physical health as well – make sure that you eat regularly, get adequate sleep and try and set aside some time for exercise.
In fact, research suggests that exercise can be as effective as therapy by promoting the release of feel good endorphins in your brain like serotonin. Staying physically active or even just going outside for a walk is one of the most naturally beneficial things anyone can do for their health and wellbeing.
Get support (counselling, support group)
When you’re experiencing grief, it can often leave you feeling overwhelmed and out of control. At times, it may feel as though things will never get better and any relief you do get from grief may only feel temporary. Most people find that over time, the gaps of relief lengthen and gradually, the pain starts to feel more bearable.
However, if you feel as though you’re not coping or you need support, it’s extremely important that you seek professional help. There are a number of accessible support options for anyone struggling after a bereavement. Just some of these support options include face to face counselling, support groups and phone and online counselling, available 24/7.
If you or someone you know is struggling and want to speak to a professional counsellor, SuicideLine Victoria is available 24/7. Call us on 1300 651 251.
If it is an emergency, call 000.