Monday, February 11, 2013

Thoughts Of Suicide in Grief

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A reader writes: My beloved died earlier this month, and I can't stop thinking about ending this hell. I know I should stay here for my kids - they don't deserve to lose yet another parent and would be devastated. But I can't see going on like this. Even for one more week. It's just impossible. I'm on antidepressants and sedatives, but I still feel frantic with pain, grief and loneliness. Is this normal? Will I make it? Should I even make it? Or would it be easier to just quit now? I can't even bring myself to pick up the phone and talk to anyone.

My response: My friend, you say you're having thoughts of suicide and you can't stop thinking about ending this hell. Keep in mind that whatever thoughts and feelings you're having are neither right or wrong, good or bad, and they're not always rational – they just are, and for your own mental health it's important to acknowledge them and express them. I want to commend you for doing exactly that: acknowledging and expressing your thoughts of suicide. Many if not most grieving people have those very same thoughts, but they are terribly afraid to share them for fear of being regarded as over-reacting or crazy, or for fear of scaring other people.

I can assure you that thoughts of suicide are not at all unusual when you are grieving. Because your loss is so recent and your grief is so raw, you may have the pessimistic belief that things will never get any better, as if life and living are useless and pointless. Of course it is difficult to imagine life without your beloved spouse, and your feeling a compelling need to end this agony of grief is completely understandable. Remember, though, that there is a vast difference between thinking about suicide and actually acting upon such thoughts. In grief, thoughts of suicide are usually fleeting and reflect how desperately you want the pain of loss to end. You say you have children who don't deserve to lose another parent, so a part of you knows that suicide is not an option, and I want to suggest to you if that alone is your reason for hanging on right now, then accept it and let it be enough.

You say you wonder if you will make it through this grief of yours. Simplistic as it may seem, the way you'll make it is by doing it one day at a time, and if that is too much, you do it one hour and even one minute at a time. One fundamental truth that I hope you'll accept is that there is no right or wrong way to do this thing called grief. There is only your way, and you must discover that way for yourself. Others can share with you all the things we've learned and done and tried to help ourselves along the way, but it is up to you to pick and choose what works for you and discard what does not. Just know that to do nothing, to simply let time pass as if "time heals all wounds," is only to delay the work that needs to be done. The passage of time does nothing to heal grief – it is what we do with the time that matters.

So I encourage you to read all you can find about grief, so you will know what is normal and to be expected on this grief journey of yours, you'll be better prepared for what lies ahead, and you'll know what you can do to manage your own reactions. See especially the Death of a Spouse page on my Grief Healing Web site. Follow some of the links listed there and learn what is unique about this special kind of loss. Contact your local hospice or hospital to find out what bereavement resources are available in your community. Find a grief counselor and/ or an in-person support group. Visit and read some of the many blogs written by widows/widowers on the Web. Let your physician know that your prescription medication is not working for you and see if together you can find something that does.

If you still find yourself continually thinking of suicide, read this first. And if you are experiencing serious suicidal thoughts that you cannot control, please stop now and telephone 911 or call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Your feedback is welcome! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question, or share a tip, a related article or a resource of your own in the Comments section below.
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© by Marty Tousley, RN, MS, FT, DCC

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