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Because family life matters

Losing a partner through a traumatic death or suicide

The pain of traumatic bereavement or suicide can be so hard to bear. Here are a few suggestions that might help.

“It was almost beyond my endurance” is a quote from Alison Wertheimer’s book ‘A Special Scar – The Experiences of People Bereaved by Suicide’. It conveys the emotions felt by someone who has lost a loved one from suicide or other sudden, traumatic death.

When our partner dies, whatever the cause of their death, the feelings can seem overwhelming. And when the death occurs suddenly or traumatically, some feelings can become particularly intense. Other issues can also arise, which may be particularly difficult to deal with, for example:

  • The grieving may be prolonged due to many external factors, such as the post-mortem and inquest.
  • There will be a lot of questioning and searching for an explanation.
  • Recurring images of the death may be present and disturbing for some time.

 

With suicide:

  • The fact that there seems to have been an element of choice can raise painful questions.
  • Shock and guilt can be particularly strong. It is also natural to feel angry with the one who has taken their own life.
  • Sadly, there is sometimes still stigma with suicide and, as a result, there is a possibility you may feel abandoned or rejected by some people.
  • A note left by the deceased may not always help, and if no note is found, that can also be difficult to understand.

Be kind to yourself

It is particularly important that you take steps to allow yourself time to grieve. You also need to be particularly gentle and kind to yourself at this time. Here are some suggestions to help you do this:

  • Try to focus on and remember the good times you had with your partner. You will still have to face up to what happened, however, because blocking it out will only make it harder to deal with in the long run.
  • Seek help. You may need to speak to someone about your tragic loss and grief. It’s not a weakness to ask for help, so don’t put off visiting your GP or getting help from a counsellor. Talking about how you’re feeling inside (even if you’re not always sure how you’re feeling) is much healthier than bottling it all up. You’ll also find some helpful links at the end of this article.
  • Writing a journal of your thoughts may help.
  • Make sure you both exercise and rest. Your appetite may change, but try to eat healthily.
  • Try to avoid making major decisions for a while.
  • Be aware that any anniversary will be difficult and seek support.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your relatives and friends. This may include practical help, as well as having people to talk to.
  • There is a possibility that the media will contact you, so be prepared and decide in advance what you want to be reported. The police and your Family Liaison Officer should be able to advise you on this.
  • When a death is sudden, as with suicide, the bereaved person may find it hard to think of the future. Because of the suddenness, you may feel you cannot go on with the rest of the world but must stay in that place of grief until some sense or meaning is drawn from it. However, by taking one small step at a time, you can move forward. As you gradually rebuild your life, hold on to hope and the knowledge that your life can have new meaning.

You may still be in the position where you think “it’s almost beyond my endurance”, but the quote mentioned earlier from Alison Wertheimer’s book goes on to say, “Yet nevertheless, we do endure and we do laugh, and we do go on contributing to our family and friends, and that, I suppose, is the miracle.”

Remember, there is always hope. You can survive and find a new meaning in your life.

Further help and resources:

Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide offer support for those who have been bereaved by suicide. Further details are available in our list of bereavement support organisations.

An excellent resource called ‘Help is at Hand’ is available to download. It is produced by the Department of Health specifically for those bereaved by suicide and sudden, traumatic death.

Please remember that Care for the Family is also here for you. Many of the Widowed Young Support telephone befrienders have also suffered a traumatic bereavement, so, although you may think it would be too difficult to talk to anyone about the particular circumstances of your bereavement, there are others who have some understanding and who have survived. We always try to match befrienders with people who have had a similar bereavement, so please call us on (029) 2081 0800 if you would like to talk to someone.

This information is supplied in good faith, but Care for the Family cannot accept responsibility for any advice or recommendations made by other organisations or resources.