Words are so very powerful. They build and destroy. And when destruction comes, there are always well intentioned people to offer “support” and unwanted advice. And sometimes, all we really need is quiet; stillness. A chance to soak in the devastation and just have someone sit – with us – in the fire.
No one knows what to say to a grieving friend who just lost someone to suicide. There are no perfect words when someone is standing in the ruin. For starters, “I’m sorry” is acceptable. I couldn’t tell you how many well intentioned friends shot unintentional bullets.
The first thing to remember: a suicide survivor never needs a reminder of who’s decision this was. It is NEVER news. Our anger, misplaced or not, is part of the grief. The journey will be so different for everyone, but I can assure you- There will never be the right moment to remind them that “this was her choice”. We know. We always know….we are learning to live with that. Survivors live every second of their days wondering WHY. Angry at circumstances that lead their loved ones to this choice. Often times buried in guilt for not being able to save them. So please, resist your reminder. Sometimes, it is better to say nothing.
Resist the summation of WHY this happened. I don’t need your answers. I am still making waves of this myself.
For CHRIST SAKE, please stop saying “She should focus on her other children” or “Live with the ones who are living” “You still have family HERE, on earth”. Those are dangerous words. OF COURSE, Losing one child does not take away from the gift of 3 children. But losing one child is enough to feel the flame of hell. And until you have stood in the flames and laid in the ashes, could you possibly resonate with the intensity of the grief? The answer is NO. Lost love is unable to be measured. Only felt. Shut up and let them feel it. It’s their journey to cross, not yours.
“Time heals all wounds”. But does it? The truth is, no, it doesn’t “heal”. Loss is not an illness. Surviving suicide is more like a life sentence. We may grow use to our circumstance, but we will never recover from the pain and the hollowness of baring this world without them. They belonged to us, and us to them. No passage of time will ever change that.
SAY THEIR NAME. OUT LOUD! Speak about them with positive stories and keep their memory alive. They way they laughed or loved.. funny stories and characteristics and just all of it. IT DOES HELP to talk about them. Good memories, only the good memories.
Allow GENEROUS Latitude. Grief is foreign… there is no map of when and where things get easier. Again a well intentioned friend shared a meme on my Facebook eluding for me to shorten the grief experience. Essentially it felt thoughtless, though I know that the sender was also a survivor (years into the journey) and wanting to help me through my pain. but I think the real lesson here was to remember that ALL grief is different. What helps one survivor years into the journey is probably not in tune with the needs of someone walking out of the flames, smoke still in the air.
Meals were great and appreciated. And cards and texts that required no answer were helpful. THE most important thing, and what I think GOD for, are the ears that heard and continue to listen. The friends and family who genuinely heard the cries and reciprocated with cries of their own and hugs. Give all the hugs.
BE PATIENT. Be flexible, grief tends to be a roller coaster. BE present. Be careful with your words. And always, always be kind.