Losing a loved one to suicide is one of life’s most painful experiences. The feelings of loss, sadness, and loneliness experienced after the death of a loved one, are often magnified in suicide survivors by feelings of guilt, confusion, rejection, shame, anger, and the effects of stigma and trauma. Furthermore, survivors of suicide loss are at higher risk of developing major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and suicidal behaviors, as well as a prolonged form of grief called complicated grief and abandonment trauma.

Complicated Grief

Added to the burden is the substantial stigma, which can keep survivors away from much needed support and healing resources. Thu survivors may require unique supportive measures and targeted treatment to cope with their loss. Treating the associated trauma and grief that is common territory for people who have first-hand
experience in losing a loved one to suicide is a process that respects no time expectation. Some cases show treatment will improve a person’s symptoms within days and weeks, while other cases have proven to take many years. Though the process of managing trauma and grief is life-long, it becomes easier and more manageable to cope with as you progress. The most commonly chosen methods of suicide are gunshot, hanging, drug overdose or other poisoning, jumping, asphyxiation, vehicular impact, drowning, exsanguination, and electrocution. There are other indirect methods some attempters may employ, such as behaving recklessly or not taking vitally required medications. Many suicides go unreported, as it can be difficult to identify indirect suicide attempts as suicide, and even some of the more direct methods of suicide may not be clearly identifiable attempts. For example, drug overdoses or vehicular impact attempts are more passive methods, and it may be difficult to determine whether an event was an attempt or an accident. Conversely, accidental drug overdoses can often be confused with suicide attempts. If the deceased left behind a note or told someone about their plans or intent to take their own life, this can help those left behind, the suicide survivors, to distinguish between an attempt at an accident, but often no such explanation exists, whichmost often adds a tremendous amount of guilt for the bereaved to face in the treatment process.

Below we will discuss some of the various types of grief:

Grief reactions and characteristics

Grief is the universal, instinctual and adaptive reaction to the loss of a loved one. It can be subcategorized as acute grief, which is the initial painful response, integrated grief, which is the ongoing, attenuated adaptation to the death of a loved one, and finally complicated grief (CG), which is sometimes labeled as prolonged, unresolved, or
traumatic grief. CG references acute grief that remains persistent and intense and does not transition into integrated grief.

Acute Grief

After the death of a loved one, regardless of the cause of death, bereaved individuals may experience intense and distressing emotions. Immediately following the death, bereaved individuals often experience feelings of numbness, shock, and denial. For some, this denial is adaptive as it provides a brief respite from the pain, allowing time and energy to accept the death and to deal with practical implicationsInteracting with the coroner’s office, planning a funeral, doing what is necessary for children or others affected by the loss and settling the estate of the deceased. But, for most, the pain cannot be put off indefinably. It may not be until days, weeks, or even months following the death that the reality is fully comprehended, both cognitively and emotionally, and the intense feelings of sadness, longing, and emptiness may not peak until after that recognition sets in. Indeed, grief has been described as one of the most painful experiences an individual ever faces. Shock, anguish, loss, anger, guilt, regret, anxiety, fear, intrusive images, depersonalization, feeling overwhelmed, loneliness, unhappiness, and depression are just some of the feeling states often described.
Feelings of anguish and despair may initially seem ever-present, but soon they occur predominantly in waves or bursts—the so-called pangs of grief—brought on by concrete reminders of discussions about the deceased. Once the reality of the loss begins to sink in, over time, the waves become less intense and less frequent. For most bereaved persons, these feelings gradually diminish in intensity, allowing the individual to accept the loss and re-establish emotional balance. The person knows what the loss has meant to them but they begin to shift attention to the world around them.

Integrated Grief

Under most circumstances, acute grief instinctively transitions to integrated grief within several months. However, as described later, this period may be substantially extended for those who have lost a loved one to suicide. The hallmarks of “healing” from the death of a loved one are the ability of the bereaved to recognize that they have grieved, to be able to think of the deceased with equanimity, to return to work, to re-experience pleasure, and to be able to seek the companionship and love of others. For many, new capacities, wisdom, unrecognized strengths, new and meaningful relationships, and broader perspectives emerge in the aftermath of loss. However, a small percentage of individuals are not able to come to such a resolution and go on to develop a “complicated grief” reaction.

Complicated Grief

CG is a bereavement reaction in which acute grief is prolonged, causing distress and interfering with functioning. The bereaved may feel longing and yearning that does not substantially abate with time and may experience difficulty re-establishing a meaningful life without the person who died. The pain of the loss stays fresh, and healing does not occur. The bereaved person feels stuck, time moves forward but the intense grief remains. Symptoms include recurrent and intense pangs of grief and a preoccupation with the person who died, mixed with avoidance of reminders of the loss. The bereaved may have recurrent intrusive images of the death, while positive memories may be blocked or interpreted as sad, or experienced, in prolonged states of reverie that interfere with daily activities. Life might feel so empty, and the
yearning may be so strong that the bereaved may also feel a strong desire to join their loved one, leading to suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Alternatively, the pain from the loss may be so intense that their own death may feel like the only possible outlet of relief. Coping with the loss of a loved one is always very necessary, and is
deserved by the bereaved, and very importantly, the deceased. One might feel that they have a handle on their emotions, but as it usually turns out, most of us learn that grief will not just go away on its own. Much like the light bulb in your lamp when it burns out, you must change the bulb to rectify the issue, grief is no different. If grief is
interfering with your, and/or other people’s life, it means that grief has probably been an underlying problem for longer than you think. You owe it to yourself, the people close to you and the person you grieve for, to seek help and receive treatment. Can-Am Interventions specialize in support for families and individuals that suffer from grief and its many debilitating symptoms. By Contacting our team, we can facilitate a treatment plan to begin your path to recovery.

For More Information:
E: patti.pike@canaminterventions.com
1-800-638-1812 Toll Free Internationally
415-827-3725 Cell /Text
415-578-2875 Office

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