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Articles - Family / Friends / Co-workers

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Resources for Families: Coping With Suicide
The suicide of a family member is a traumatic and overwhelming experience for those left behind. Once the initial numbness begins to fade, you may find it difficult to cope with powerful feelings of rage, pain and grief. Each individual and every family reacts differently, but the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention estimates that six people are deeply affected by every one suicide. This means that there are at least 4.5 million affected by a suicide in the United States today.

Although you may wonder whether healing is possible, resources are available to provide ongoing support to you and your family. If you’re struggling to recover, the following information may help.

Organized groups
Across the United States, support groups for survivors of suicide are ready to listen with both compassion and understanding. An online directory of these groups is available from the American Association of Suicidology . You can find local resources by checking the Yellow Pages under “crisis” or “hot lines” and calling for a referral. Sharing your feelings with others who have had a similar experience might be a good source of validation and comfort.

You may find consolation in attending worship services, meeting privately with a religious leader or through individual prayer. Ask your congregation for support. Faith can be an important source of strength, especially in times of crisis, so give some thought to ongoing spiritual counseling.

Sharing with loved ones
Remember that every member of your family is grieving, and you can gain strength from each other. Discussing your feelings of guilt, anger and despair may help those emotions subside. Don’t forget that even young children grieve, and they may need additional counseling or encouragement to express themselves. As time goes by, decide as a family how you’d like to commemorate anniversaries, birthdays or holidays.

Professional support
A knowledgeable counselor can assist with the difficult, painful process of healing, especially if you are experiencing both physical and emotional reactions. Many affected by a suicide suffer from depression, anxiety, insomnia, headaches or fatigue. A mental health professional can help you work through your grief and alleviate some of these symptoms. You also may want to arrange family meetings with a professional therapist.

Reading and research
Many books have been written about coping with the suicide of a family member, and several have been written by persons affected by suicide themselves. Reading these books can help you increase your knowledge about suicide and learn how other families have dealt with such loss. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has compiled a short bibliography of resources and the American Association of Suicidology publishes a quarterly newsletter for survivors.

Internet resources
You also can investigate online support networks. Web sites offer publications, links to other online resources, advice, personal stories and even bulletin boards where survivors can exchange words of encouragement. Online information about suicide and its aftermath is available from these organizations: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, American Association of Suicidology, Mental Health Net, National Mental Health Association, National Institute of Mental Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Throughout the process of grieving and healing, find safe, supportive environments where you are comfortable discussing your feelings. Remember that a variety of resources are available for your family. You can talk to each other, meet with a support group, talk to a clergy member, attend individual counseling, start family therapy, increase your knowledge or explore the Web sites of national organizations. Remember that you will survive this ordeal, but you don’t have to do it alone. Decide which resources are right for you, and get help to start healing.

American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

American Association of Suicidology

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Mental Health Net

National Institute of Mental Health

National Mental Health Association

by Lauren Greenwood
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