Chester Bennington. Chris Cornell. Friends. Both died by suicide just 2 months apart.
Individuals who have lost a loved one to suicide are at an increased risk of suicide themselves. One study reports that people bereaved by suicide (Survivors of Suicide, aka SOS) within the past year were 1.6 times more likely to struggle with suicidal ideation, 2.9 times more likely to create a suicidal plan, and 3.7 times more likely to have made a suicide attempt than the general population (Crosby & Sacks, 2002). Based on the findings, an estimated at least 10% (73,000) of yearly suicide attempts may be due to the suicidal loss of a loved one.
Why? While we can’t answer that definitively, I believe it is because once you’ve experienced a suicidal loss, the option is on the table. Prior to the loss, suicide may not be in your immediate thoughts. You might consider it as taboo or as something “I’d never consider.” For some reason, when someone we love completes suicide, what was once taboo and unthinkable has become very real and intimately personal.
Because survivors of suicide have a greater risk of attempting, it is vital that we obtain the support we need from others. I recommend attending a SOS Group in your area (Click here to find a list of groups in your area). These groups are designed for people 18 and older who have experienced suicidal loss. The group is free and connects you with others who faced similar loss. The healing that comes from these groups is phenomenal. There is just something about talking with others who “get it.”
Other survivors have experienced the guilt, the shame, the heartache, and the anger associated with suicidal loss. We’ve heard well-meaning people say things that should never be spoken to another. We grieve deeply. We long for answers. We value the community we find in each other.
My heart hurts for the families of both Chester and Chris. I hope that they are able to find a community to love and support them in this time of loss. If you’ve lost someone to suicide, acknowledge the pain you are feeling now and make a conscious decision NOT to ever put your friends in family in a similar situation. If you struggle with suicidal thoughts, tell someone immediately. Don’t be afraid or ashamed. This is a matter of life and death. Talk to a trusted friend, a medical professional, a therapist or a pastor. Don’t suffer in solitude.
For those currently experiencing the pains of suicidal loss, I want to share good news and bad news. The bad is that you never “get over it” as some suggest. The pain will continue to linger. HOWEVER, the good news is with time and healing, the pain is less raw, and you will learn to live again….you can experience joy again in spite of what happened. I once wrote in my journal, “I fear I will never know joy again this side of heaven.” Today my joy has not only been restored but multiplied. Don’t give up. There is life after suicide!
Research study cited is:
Crosby, A., & Sacks, J. (2002). Exposure to suicide: Incidence and association with suicidal ideation and behavior: Suicide & Life – Threatening Behavior, 32(3), 321-8. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/89155020?accountid=12085