Coping with Suicide Loss: 9 Lessons for Hope and Healing

Man watching the sunset

“It takes courage to endure the sharp pains of self-discovery rather than choose to take the dull pain of unconsciousness that would last the rest of our lives.” ~Marianne Williamson

“That boy is one in a million, Jill. He’s one in a million.”

These were my grandfather’s words to my mum about my brother, Mitch, when he was just a kid. He really was one in a million—a light that shone so bright as a child and early teen, only to then fade into shadows of desperation and defeat as he grew into adulthood.

No one really knows what’s going on in someone else’s mind, especially when a person refuses to let you in. Mitch never let anyone in. On October 1st, 2002 he decided to leave at the age of twenty-six. We were one short on our team now. Our family puzzle was missing a vital piece.

That night, I woke up around 1am to my mum sitting at my bedside in her robe. She sobbed and said, “He was such a troubled, troubled soul.” Right then I knew what had happened.

I held my mum in an embrace that never wanted to end. And as the tsunami of shock and fear crashed over me, I prayed that this was all some bad nightmare I’d wake up from.

At the time, I thought my world had ended. Little did I know, it had just begun.

In the beginning after Mitch took his life, I wanted to run and hide. I couldn’t shake the shame and guilt. The societal and cultural stigma attached to suicide as a horrible, selfish act stuck to me like glue.

I felt like our family had caught some bad disease and any one of us could be next. Like we had the suicide gene and it was only a matter of time another family member or I chose to go against the “normalcy” of a life lived.

Even though the past eight years of Mitch’s life were shrouded in depression, the guilt of not doing enough kept replaying in my mind.

I’d imagine saving the day and bursting into the hotel room where he spent his final hours and convincing him there was another way. Grief whispered to me, there had to be another way for him to be happy. I didn’t realize at the time that the only person that can heal you is you.

Then there was the anger. I couldn’t look myself in the mirror. The bathroom became a torture chamber.

However, in the midst of my grief something else happened. I felt a closer connection to my own energy at the core of my being. I believe this was due in part to the loss of the physical relationship with Mitch; organically, I switched gears to reconnect on a different level.

Feeling broken after such a loss, funnily enough, cracked open a channel within me that lay dormant and ignored.

It was an odd feeling, and one I didn’t welcome because of my inner resistance to change. At the time, I preferred to remain stuck in suffering, but the invitation was there.

The better part of my twenties was awfully confusing because I allowed myself to wallow in pain. As a result, I lacked intimacy in relationships, I was financially dependent, I lacked commitment to my career, and I lost my old zest for life.

However, the beauty of confusion is that it allowed me to seek the answers I was looking for. The key was to ask the right questions.

The right questions led me to lean into my pain head on, address it, and acknowledge the energetic essence within me rising to the surface. Asking the right questions led me to a shift in thinking and helped me learn some valuable lessons.

At the end of the day I had a choice to make: Was I willing to genuinely look inside? Did I wish to grow from the experience? Did Mitch want me to carry the weight of his loss upon my shoulders until my dying day? Did I want to swim in the continuity of life or sink in my own sorrow?

Along your own path to healing after suicide loss or personal crisis, these nine suggestions might help.

1. Be willing to change your concept of yourself.

This means changing what you believe to be true about your outer and inner self-concept. It means letting go of the old stories, beliefs, thoughts, and patterns that don’t serve you and keep you stuck in the past.

For me, the old stories, beliefs, and thoughts centered around suicide loss being my eternal crutch to bear, something that was going to forever limit my capacity to find joy in anything I did. I told myself I didn’t have the power to heal my life—that included being successful in whatever I placed my attention on.

When you redefine what you are capable of on the outside and when you reconnect to your higher power on the inside, you begin to unlock what is authentically you.

When you honor what is authentically you, void of all past luggage and conditioning, you unlock a greater love within. A connection that self-heals and plants you in the present with gratitude in your heart—that includes the life you have lost. By honoring you, you honor them. There is no separation.

2. Be willing to externalize your grief.

Your grief has intelligence. Let it tell you know it knows. Vomit it all up, don’t wretch. Open the latch and let the dam spill over. Sometimes when all the tears are cried there is no room for anything else except a smile and laughter. There is strength in vulnerability and healing in releasing. Talk, cry, write, shout, exercise, and help others.

3. Be willing to go within.

This lovely world of ours is a mirror. Your outer state is a reflection of your inner state. Self-healing and self-love start with connecting to your inner source, your higher power.

Meditate. Meditation will create a clear, open channel between the heart and the mind allowing for them to work in synchrony. Anxiety, addiction, and obsession over your loss will slowly melt away because you are grounded in the loop of life. Where there is grief, there is also relief.

You don’t have to be spiritual or religious. If you are a skeptic and don’t buy into what ancient traditions and great masters have known for thousands of years, and you rely on scientific fact, then look no further to what the world’s leading neuroscientists and physicists are saying.

There is an underlying intelligence that binds this whole place together. You are not separate from anything else that exists on this planet. You are made of the same stuff! To think you are any different is the height of arrogance. To tap into its power, sit with it in silence. Join with it.

In terms of healing after a loss, consistent meditation, day and night, is one of the most powerful practices, if not the most powerful, for self-healing and overall well-being. I have witnessed dramatic shifts in awareness within myself with consistent meditation after loss.

I have come to recognize that I am not the thoughts in my head. I have become more aware of my own thoughts, as opposed to becoming attached to them.

Thoughts are neither good nor bad, but the moment I place an emotional attachment to them, that’s when they become problematic. With practice, I’ve learned to step back behind the negative chatter and catch myself buying into thoughts that are rooted in the past. By no means am I master of this, but I am far better than I used to be.

4. Be willing to process and clear the pain.

Again, you have a choice. I’d suggest being brave and honest. A whole new world awaits you when you are willing to do the work.

That is, be willing to externalize your grief, to self-inquire, and feel to heal. To face your hurt head on instead of ignoring it for years. That, I can tell you now, will come back to bite you at some stage.

You can run, but you can’t hide; sooner or later your hurt will spill out into your relationships, finances, family, health, or career. The wiser choice is to work with it, not against it.

When you are willing to process the guilt, shame, blame, anger, depression, isolation, and loneliness, you begin to unlock your authentic self. You strip away the layers to your greatness.

The opportunity to view yourself and this world through a new lens is available to you. You will begin to see that with grief there is also relief. You may not witness it straight away, but life has a way of balancing itself out. It’s always the end of life that gives life a chance. This greatest loss of yours can become your greatest gift. My life is proof of that.

5. Be willing to see your life beyond your loss.

A question that needs to be asked after we have grieved our loss: Now that this has happened to us, what are we going to do about it?

Am I going to use this loss to grow, learn, share, give, create, and love more? It’s up to you. I’ve chosen not to do these things in the past and it led to a depressive state. Swim with life as it continues on and grows or sink in the past that doesn’t exist?

There is something great for you in the horizon. This loss is your trigger, your catalyst to peel back the layers and discover what music dances in your heart.

6. Be willing to accept the value of challenge.

What if life’s greatest challenges and voids were windows into living your most inspired, creative, and authentic self?

In the words of Dr. John Demartini, “Your greatest voids create your highest values. And your highest values lead you to feel grateful for the synchronous balance in life—both pain and pleasure, challenge and support—that brings you closer to fulfilling what is most meaningful.”

There is potential value in every situation. Grief is not exempt of this. Grief is a part of life, and to exclude the balance of death leaves us in this lop-sided view of the world.

Today we constantly seek pleasure, we seek support, and we desire acceptance. The trouble is that grief leaves us with deep pain and with a perceived greater challenge, and if you have experienced a suicide loss, the challenge cuts deep within a family context. In our case, a family of six becoming five felt like a gaping hole deeper than the Grand Canyon.

I now look at the sadness of losing my brother as the most instructive thing that has ever happened to me. His death didn’t have to remain in the way of my life, but more so, on the way to unlocking how I wanted to live my life and what I wanted to share and contribute.

Mitch taught me that my time here is limited and to go after what really makes me happy. To find my joy and share it with the world. His death was a reminder to have fun and not take it too seriously. No one knows what’s going to happen tomorrow, so you might as well enjoy the moment—all that we have! For this, I can’t thank him enough.

I have no doubts he is celebrating with me. I know this because for him to not want me to seek the benefits, opportunities, and inspiring lessons in his passing would be to deny the significance and meaning I have found through the life he lived, and in his passing.

7. Be willing to generate energy.

You have to generate it in order for you to have it!

That’s why in these times of challenge you need to remember to do the things that you love. For me, I needed to swim in the ocean daily, go on long bush walks, hang out with friends even when I didn’t feel like leaving the house, and set aside time to write whatever it was they wanted to spill onto the page.

You must endeavor to feed yourself joy. Things you love to do and things you loved to do with your loved one that’s passed.

Don’t become the stale water in the pond. Seek to sit in that rubber tube and flow with the current of the river.

8. Be willing to forgive yourself and your loved one.

Their death is not your fault. It’s very easy to blame yourself and others around you. We should have done more! How did I not see the signs? I can’t live with myself—what kind of mother/father am I?

Hold up! Drop it. Have some compassion for yourself. You did what you could with the awareness you had at the time. It was their choice to go—an end to their own pain and suffering they unfortunately could see no way out of.

As you forgive others, you begin to forgive yourself. When you stop focusing on their choice to go, you will stop punishing yourself for your own.

To quote Marianne Williamson, “Forgiveness releases the past to divine correction and the future to new possibilities. Whatever it was that happened to you, it is over. It happened in the past; in the present, it does not exist unless you bring it with you. Nothing anyone has ever done to you has permanent effects, unless you hold on to it permanently.”

9. Be willing to surrender.

Here’s a simple equation: Open mind = open heart = living authentically you.

When you absorb and take action on the other eight lessons, you will become more open to something much bigger than you could have imagined for your life after your loss. You must be willing to give up your attachments to the outcome of your life after suicide loss.

I does get better. There is light at the end of the tunnel. You will be okay. In fact you will be better than okay. But you must keep moving. This loss has left a giant scar, but scars tell stories. Make this scar the catalyst for you to know and love yourself more than you have ever have before. In the words of Anita Moorjani, “Love yourself like your life depends on it, because it does!”

There is hope and there is happiness. Life isn’t the same without them, but that’s okay. You’re here now and it’s up to you what you want to do with the precious time you have been gifted.

About Marshall Dunn

Marshall Dunn is the author of Letters to Mitch - The Healing Power of Grief, Love & Truth, which is available now on Amazon. Marshall also mentors individuals around the world to awaken to their truth and step into the life they are born to live. Visit www.marshalldunn.com for more information, and follow him on Instagram and Facebook.

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