When Grief Hurts Too Much: Preventing Suicide
Article by Jennifer Scott
After a Loss
Grieving is always a messy process — the 20 million Americans who lose someone they love each year know that. But sometimes, after the death of a loved one, grief morphs into something bigger and even more painful.
About 15 percent of bereaved persons experience a more extreme form of grieving. Sometimes called complicated grief or prolonged grief, this form of grief lasts longer and takes a more intense form than the average bereavement. People dealing with disordered grief experience overwhelming longing for the deceased, feelings of hopelessness, and intrusive thoughts of their own death. For some, those negative thoughts grow so strong that suicide starts to look like an option.
It’s not unusual to think about suicide when you’re in the throes of acute grief. However, there’s a big difference between thinking about suicide and acting on those thoughts. If you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts in the aftermath of a loss, stop now and call 1-800-273-8255 to talk to a trained crisis counselor, or dial 911 for emergency help.
While such intense grief is difficult to move past, it isn’t impossible. Recovering after a loss takes time, but it also takes support. There are many places you can find support during the grieving process, but these four are some of the best:
Friends and Family
Talking about grief is hard, but it’s an important part of the healing process. Turn to caring friends and family members when you need to get feelings off your chest or share fond memories to cheer you up. Instead of waiting for friends and family to offer help, tell them what you need. When the people who care about you are distant in the face of loss, often it’s because they don’t know how to help, not because they don’t want to.
While friends and family are a wonderful support system, sometimes you need to talk to people who truly understand the pain you’re living with. That’s when grief support groups become an invaluable resource. With the support of people with shared experiences, grief feels a little less lonely.
Online Bereavement Groups
In-person support groups aren’t always an option. Whether you live in an isolated region, have a busy schedule, or need help now but the next group meeting is days away, online support can provide the help you need exactly when you need it. You can connect with other bereaved persons online or even find web-based grief counseling services.
Therapy or Grief Counseling
When you’re struggling to find healthy ways to cope with your grief, professional therapy is available to help you work through complicated emotions. A therapist or grief counselor can help you identify positive ways to deal with stress, loneliness, and other symptoms of grief. They can also refer you for medication if depression has emerged alongside your grief. The support of a mental health professional is especially important for bereaved persons experiencing suicidal ideations.
In addition to seeking support, it’s important to take care of yourself during this difficult time. Find positive outlets to express your pain, like creating art, journaling, or getting involved in a cause near to your heart. Avoid the urge to dull your pain with alcohol, drugs, or overeating, and instead use a healthy diet, physical activity, and plenty of sleep to manage your stress. Be patient with yourself, accepting that grieving is normal, is okay, and is not bound by any timetable.
As isolating as loss can seem, you don’t have to deal with grief alone. Seeking support from loved ones, professionals, and people with shared experiences as part of your healing process is an important way to prevent grief from taking control of your life.
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