South Dakota state news

Survivors of the day of the loss of suicide

About the author: Catelyn Reimnitz is a Program Specialist supporting Suicide Prevention and Crisis Services within the South Dakota Division of Behavioral Health Office of Crisis Prevention and Services.

In the United States, approximately 44,000 people die from suicide each year. Suicide affects not only the individual, but the health and well-being of others. Each loss leaves family, friends and communities grieving and struggling to understand and cope.

On November 19, 2022, on International Day of Suicide Survivors, the friends and families of those who have died of suicide can come together to find connection, understanding and hope through shared experiences.

Losing a loved one to death by suicide can be unimaginable and the pain that comes with it can be devastating. It can be easy to fall victim to your grief during this vulnerable time. The emotions you feel can be overwhelming and heartbreaking. Some individuals may also feel guilty and wonder how they didn’t see the signs and, if they did, what they could have done to prevent it.

It is important for survivors to adopt some healthy coping habits as they cope with their pain. For instance:

  • Stay in touch. Use the supports around you such as family, friends or spiritual leaders who can help bring you comfort, understanding and healing. Make sure they are people you believe have your best interest at heart and that they will take the time to listen to you and talk to you during this time of grieving.
  • Grieve your way. There is no “right way” to cry and there is no time limit to “get over it”. Do what’s right for you, whatever it is, and listen to your needs. Do not rush. The pain is complicated and you can experience periods of regression. Losing a loved one through suicide is devastating. Give yourself grace during this time.
  • Be prepared for painful reminders. Anniversaries, holidays, and other special occasions can be painful reminders of what it once was, whether through traditions or something else. Take note of how you feel during these times and consider changing traditions if necessary to ease the pain. It’s okay to have tough days. Healing is like a roller coaster; it does not happen in a straight line.
  • Consider a support group or professional help. Sharing your story / pain with others can help you find purpose and strength. You are not alone. Peer / professional support is available, know when to contact.

You may never know why your loved one has decided to take their own life and you may feel guilt, extreme sadness and anger to continue with everyday life. The intensity of these feelings will lessen. The first step in healing is to understand that suicide is no one’s fault and the resulting pain is complicated. By taking care of yourself and learning different coping strategies, you can better manage your pain and work to honor the memory of your loved one.

Those who have lost a loved one to suicide are truly survivors because every day they survive their loss in the best possible way. November 19th it is a day to recognize the strength and resilience that survivors of suicide have. Together we can be the change.

Resources are available. The Healing After Suicide Loss in Your Life guide is a resource available to those who have lost a loved one due to suicide. In addition, the Helpline Center has a pack of material resources specific to pain recovery for survivors that can be mailed or distributed upon request. Visit https://sdsuicideprevention.org/survivor-services/.

To locate survivor support groups in South Dakota, visit sdsuicideprevention.org.

To read previous editions of the Mental Health Memo visit https://dss.sd.gov/keyresources/news.aspx#mhmemo .

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