The Healing Process

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The healing process

The so called road to recovery is a long difficult journey and can be daunting.  However, for the sake of your mental health you do need to move on. For this important reason (your sanity)  it is an essential journey and there are a number of important points to remember which may (hopefully) help you.

It goes without saying but the first agonised months of any bereavement are stress-filled; so it is important to maintain close personal contact with other people, especially friends and relatives.

  • Bear in mind that each family member may be grieving in his or her own way and could feel ill at ease and unable to provide you with the emotional support which you need in this painful period.
  • If this is the case, you could take the initiative and 'break the ice' by talking with them about the suicide, and ask for their help if you need it.
  • Being able to accept what has happened will benefit you all. You all need to accept what has happened. 
  • Once the ice has been broken it will be possible for you all to share your feelings of loss and pain.
  • Never forget that children also experience    grief. They may need to be reassured that you still love them very much. As difficult as it may seem share your thoughts and feelings with them. More importantly perhaps, encourage them to share their feelings with you.
  • Some days will be more stressful than others. Special anniversaries, birthdays and holidays can all be painful reminders of the suicide. Try to organise these difficult days with you and your family's  emotional needs as your main concern.
  • In the initial stages it is quite common for those left behind to feel guilty for a while before you  accept that you are not to blame. Apparently, these feelings will pass. Remember, you are only human. Don't punish yourself. You have already suffered too much pain. Enough is enough.
  • It is also quite natural for people to try to  understand the feelings of the deceased. To try to put yourself in his or her place. But this 'need' should be abandoned if it becomes the sole reason to wake in the morning. Remember, your mental health must come first. 
  • You are very much alive, and you need to face the fact that eventually you will need to reclaim your life again. Not simply to survive. But to actually try to enjoy life again. This can be extremely difficult as people often feel that enjoyment is disloyal to the deceased. This is not so.
  • Considering what has happened and what you are going through, you will probably have a need for the comfort and support of a trusted listener. Another human being to share your feelings of grief and pain with.
  • Peer groups and online forums provide many people with much needed relief, comfort and support.
  • These groups are an excellent source of contacts, coping strategies and emotional support supplied by others who have lived through the same nightmare: And so will be able to understand what you are going through where others will not. 
  • Another helpful option is to obtain individual counselling. Either with a professional counsellor or religious representative.

One common strategy for coping with grief is to simply get drunk and stay drunk. Another is to get the family doctor to prescribe tranquilizers, or take a trip to escape the pain and the misery. None of these running away techniques really work and provide only short-term relief. At some point one will return to the grieving process.  Unless of course you are prepared to be permanently addicted to drink, drugs or escapist exile. Sooner or later, the sufferer needs to face reality ‘head on’.

In this situation we have only two options. Fear Everything And Run. Or. Face Everything And Recover.

Experiencing intense grief can bring on mental illness. Or at least convince people that they really are losing it, and as such are becoming mentally ill. Cutting oneself off from others and isolating oneself within one’s self Withdrawing from family and friends and avoiding any form of a social life are all quite common responses.

Whilst keeping others at arm's length, people often seek to keep their loved one alive by surrounding themself with his or her possessions. Carrying, wearing, even sleeping with items of clothing belonging to the deceased is apparently very common. As is smelling and touching articles of clothing worn by him or her will serve to keep the memory of the loved one fresh. Catching sight of  your loved one in a crowd, On a bus, In a street or sitting at the dining room table waiting for dinner to be served is not uncommon. Yet at the same time it is more than likely something that you would not share with others. Couple these experiences with sleeplessness, anxiety, pain and a whole range of worrying emotions can lead you to believe that you really are going mad. Especially, if you begin to see your loved one and/or hear his or her voice. Whilst grief consists of many worrying experiences, thoughts and feelings: Try to remember that your loved one is missed so deeply, and so terribly, that these mental processes are a way of holding on to them.

Grief is one of those experiences which people are ill equipped to handle alone. If you are going through the grieving process you might consider seeking some form of help if you still feel numb and empty months after the death. If you feel that you cannot sleep or suffer nightmares  If you feel that you simply cannot handle intense feelings or physical sensations such as exhaustion, confusion, anxiety or panic, chronic tension  If you feel overwhelmed by the thoughts and feelings brought about by a loved one's death, anger, guilt, rejection abandonment etc. If you feel the need to share your grief but have no-one with whom to do so. If you keep constantly active in order not to feel (working all the time) If you find that you have been drinking or taking drugs to excess. If you find that you are worrying and thinking about suicide yourself… Please seek help.


The Question ‘ How long does grief last?’ is apparently quite easy to answer. Believe it or believe it not, there is a general guideline. For each year you have known the deceased closely you can expect to have about 1 week of intense grief. The intensity is determined, in part, by the closeness of the relationship. You can expect about one month per year of a close relationship for the grief to taper off. If you were making a graph of grief, the line would remain high on the graph for the intense grief and then would gradually drop as the grief wore off. The level it drops to depends entirely on the person and their relationship to the deceased. For some, the grief will never disappear. Also, as the line drops it may have slight upward movements especially on anniversaries, holidays, and other memory-invoking occasions.

Suicide is the most difficult of deaths for the bereaved to understand. Let alone come to terms with. Outsiders often 'judge' the families, friends and loved ones of a suicide harshly, and (through no fault of their own) these innocents become tainted, or stigmatised.

The person who completes suicide dies once. Those left behind die a thousand deaths, trying to relive those terrible moments and understand... why?
The sheer intensity of the physical pain experienced following the suicide of a loved one often prompts people to doubt if they, themselves, can survive it.
The simple truth is that people do. and so must you.
Grief slowly ebbs away with the passage of time. It alters as you live and work through it; and you gradually come to terms with your loss. Many people who have experienced such a tragic loss, grow as individuals to lead a more meaningful and focussed life for themselves and for others. In a sense, this is done on behalf of their loved one, and as such keeps their memory alive through service for others.