My Experience With Survivors of Suicide, as a Therapist and a Person

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Everyday, 117 people in the United States die by suicide. Suicide is also an international health crisis.

Typically when we talk about survivors of suicide, we refer to those who suffered the crisis of an attempt themselves. But survivors also exist in the form of family members and other loved ones who witness or deal with the effects of a completed attempt.

In the early days of my career as a therapist, I attended a crisis intervention training focused on suicide. I remember the presenter being passionate about her work.

Her investment in this kind of work was riveting and the energy was palpable. Minutes into the presentation, tears welled in her eyes, and she told the audience her sister had died by suicide. The reality of that experience struck the room. The image of what a suicide survivor looked like became real. She then talked about how she struggled with anxiety and grief after losing her beloved sister.

As I think back to that presentation, I remember how suicide rocked my high school. One day I came to school and learned a classmate’s younger brother had killed himself at their home.

I, like all my classmates, was in shock. Not only were many of us forced to look at mortality in the face for the first time, but I think there was also a sweeping sense of responsibility for what happened to this young man. What if we could have done something to stop him?

To this day I can’t help but think about the depth of hurt this kid must have been going through. I can only imagine the pain his family still deals with. In the wake of this young man’s death, our community dealt with the aftermath, doing our best to support his family and make sense of the tragedy.

In the days following his death, rumors swirled around the school about what happened, who found him and what might have been going on between him and his family. Teenagers aren’t known for their sensitivity. I think we all could have been more considerate about those conversations, not only for those who knew and loved him but also for those who had contemplated or survived suicide themselves.

I wonder, how many of us in that high school had thought about suicide at one point? Which of us kept quiet but intimately understood the pain and desperation suicide requires?

If you are thinking of suicide, know you are not alone. The possibility of a healthier and more peaceful life is around the corner. A therapist can help.

If you have lost someone due to suicide, your feelings of sadness, grief and pain are valid. On this day, consider sharing your experience as a survivor. There are resources to help you on your journey to recovery.

Note: If you are in a life threatening situation, do NOT use this site.
Call the 24-hr National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.8255.

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