Wisdom from Other Survivors by Brandy Lidbeck

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A lot of times, in our journey after a suicide loss, we feel completely alone. We can often greatly benefit from the wisdom of others who have also experienced a suicide. The following is a chapter from the book, The Gift of Second: Healing from the Impact of Suicide.

Sometimes the only thing helpful to a survivor is to hear from others who have experienced the same pain and devastation and, yet, survived themselves. I asked hundreds of fellow survivors what wisdom they would pass on to others and here are their answers. I hope they will speak truth, understanding, and hope to you in this overwhelming time.

“Just breathe. It’s agony and confusion and pain and guilt and questioning running nonstop in your mind. It’s normal to react that way. It’s normal to cry, scream, push people away, reach for people, and fall apart. Day by day, you’ll slowly come back up. Art, photography, hiking, what- ever gives you solace—do it. Blast music, watch funny movies. Do what you can to just get through another day. And another. You’ll always have days that knock you down, even months later. I’m at one year and I still fall back. I just do what I can to get through it. Reach out to other survivors, and try to remember the good times.”

“It’s not your fault.”

“Do what’s right for you, when it’s right for you . . . not when others think is right for you. Everyone grieves differently and at different paces. Stay true to yourself. Try to think of positive and good times with your partner versus the bad and negative things. Make changes only if that’s what you want to do. It has to be up to you to find comfort, solace, and peace and learn to live again. It will be different but you can still live life. I feel that’s what our partners would want for us. The big thing also is to understand that other people (for the most part) have no clue what it’s like to lose a spouse (unless they have, too). Most people mean well, and some- times we have to understand that.”

“There’s no right or wrong way to grieve as long as it’s not doing harm. There’s also no time limit for grief. Everyone is different.”

“Everything you are feeling is normal. Feel the grief. Don’t run away from it through work, drugs, alcohol, or any other way.”

“Give yourself permission to cry, and don’t try to ‘hold it off until later.’ For me, the more I tried to fight or delay the tears the longer they would last once I did finally let loose. If I let them out when the wave first hits, then I’m ‘done with it’ and can move on with the rest of my day.”

“I don’t think any words make a difference. It’s the hugs and just having someone around you that is helpful.”

“The pain does not stay as intense in the following months and years.”

“Don’t beat yourself up with the ‘what ifs’ and ‘I should haves.’ It doesn’t matter—what’s done is done. Find peace that they are not suffering with mental illness anymore.”

“Just try to hold on and breathe. Seek help from a therapist. Try to find peace, cry, and break down whenever you must.”

“The worst part and yet the best part is that life goes on. God has a plan.”

“They say time heals all pain…this is not true…you always feel the pain. You just learn to live day to day with it a little bit better than the day before. Nobody has answers, nobody knows why…many people hold on to those two things the most. Thinking about the best of memories is the most painful for me because I always question how someone who seemed so happy could ever really be living with such misery and I not even know it…but again…we have no answers. Survivors are the worst at beating themselves up over something we could never have controlled to begin with. We have support to move forward and away from hurting ourselves pondering the whys and what ifs. Utilize the resources. Learn to speak about it, whether you realize it or not, we all have one thing in common: we are still here. We have each other.”

“Just know that this is a long process. One day you may feel pretty good and the next day you may be slammed with sadness, grief, pain, and all of the negative emotions you can imagine. Just understand this is nor- mal and will be your new life. For how long I can’t tell you because I have been here a year and still go through this. Hold on and hang in there; this has to get better.”

“Everyone grieves in their own way. Do not, for any reason, blame yourself. I carried a lot of anger toward my mom for ending her life, until a very wise man shared this advice with me: ‘Would you be mad at some- one for dying of a heart attack? No, because their heart was sick and it was beyond their control. With suicide, the person’s mind is sick, which is also beyond their control.’ It was in that moment that all my anger to- ward my mom melted away. That changed my life forever, and if it can help one more person, then I’m happy. Also, allow yourself to grieve. Give yourself time to deal with the devastating blow you’ve received. And take your time. Suicide, in my opinion, is very different from any other type of death. There are many emotions and a lot of pain that comes along with losing a dear loved one to their own hand. Don’t feel guilty for how you feel. And know, above all, that you’re not alone. There are many people who are dealing with some of the same emotions. Reach out and allow people to help you. To any other survivors, my heart goes out to you. May God comfort you and give you the strength to survive your loss. God bless you each and everyone.”

“You are not alone.”

“Try not to figure out the ‘why?’ It never will make sense and we will never know the real answers. Just breathe and cry; let the gut wrenching pain out or it will destroy you. Each day will bring different emotions, which are all scary but normal. I’m on my twelfth year without my son and it’s still hard. I talk about my son; I post things on social media all the time about him and suicide. I hate that word but it’s just a word—it doesn’t define who my son was. He was my world and I will forever speak of him. I am proud of my son always.”

“Be kind to yourself.”

“I know it’s hard to talk about but talk to people. I actually got more out of talking to friends than I did a counselor. Support groups are great too!”

“It has been thirty years for me since my mom took her life when I was 11. Every day brings with it new emotions and new questions. Try to remember the person as they were in happy times.”

“Breathe and take one day at a time. That is enough for you in the beginning. That’s all I was able to do. Let your feelings come, and go with them. Cry, scream, sleep, and I promise you it will get better with time. You learn how to cope and ride the waves of pain. My son took his own life almost 5 years ago. I am so sorry for your loss.”

“Reach out, go out if you’re alone and walk around where there are people—I guarantee someone will offer you a smile, you’ll hear a baby giggle, see some beautiful flowers or a sunset and will realize that life can be good for us all. Rest, eat well, read, listen to your favorite music, and try to realize that you are worth it. You can work through a hard time and at the end of the night comes the dawn.”

“Be kind to yourself. Others mean well but say dismissive cliché phrases that sting to your core. Do whatever it takes without harm to get you through the day. Everything you feel has already been felt- you are not alone even though this may be the loneliest path in life.”

“Reach out to help others.”

“Talk often about your loved one, say their name when talking about them. Share about them—happy times and sad times. Have open and hon- est conversations with your family and friends. Holding in your thoughts and feelings does not help. Laugh, cry, praise, scream. It all helps.”

“It is ok to be sad and miss that person, but is not ok to be miserable and allow that death to rob you of your own joy and happiness. Still struggling with this twelve years later. Suicide grief is a complicated work in progress.”

“It’s not your fault. It’s never your fault.”

“There is a light at the end of the tunnel and it is not a train. Healing takes time, sometimes a lifetime. Do not compare yourself to others. You will smile and laugh again.”

“Healing takes time and others might not understand, especially if they have not experienced a death by suicide, which leaves a lot of “what if” questions. Our loved ones were not thinking of others but only ending their pain of living. They don’t realize what it can do to the survivors. Don’t allow anyone to tell you how long to grieve or that you should be over it by now. It’s your grieving time, not theirs. Find a group of survivors of suicide in person and/or online.”

“Never feel ashamed of how you lost your loved one; learn from this horrific experience and help raise awareness. I’m fifteen months out from losing my dad, and my other siblings hide what the truth is. Just embrace the reality of what caused the death. Yes, I know it’s horrible, but remember it was depression/other mental illness just as real as cancer that took your love one. Don’t feel ashamed ever.”

“Don’t forget to breathe. Sometimes it is the only thing you have control of. Take as long as you need to grieve; it will come in waves. No one’s experience is going to be exactly like yours. Be around others who will let you feel what you feel.”

“I think it is important to try to remember people will hurt you during this time. If they haven’t gone through it, they do not know what we have endured. We can’t expect them to, really. They might say all the wrong things and do all the wrong things. Your story is going to be different than mine, and you might not know how to help me, and your story is different than mine and I might not know how to help you. In other words, don’t let others offend you!”

“Just breathe. One day at a time. Be kind to yourself.”

“You have nothing to be ashamed of. If you are Christian, you must know that God understands this.”

“Take your time. Your grief is yours, uniquely yours. There is no time frame, but it does somehow get tolerable, yet it never goes away. Don’t apologize for anything—be you and do you. Keep the faith and pray! It’s a club none of us asked to join, but good members are in it.”

“Write a letter to the one who has died. Write a letter to them every day or night. Keep them in a book. It was the single most useful thing that I did. Later I wrote a book about my experience and I drew on the letters that I had written. It took me about sixteen years to do this, so don’t worry when others tell you, ‘you have to move on.’ Your grief has its own timeline and is not a measure of how much you loved the one who has died. After I wrote my book, my health improved, and I gained valuable distance on my grief. There is never a day that I do not remember my brother, but now I remember the good times and the love that we shared. I pray that this will be your future too.”

“They genuinely believed that you would be better off without them. They were ill.”

“It’s not your fault, you are not alone, and healing takes time.”

“BREATHE.”

“I understand exactly how you feel. This is going to be a very difficult journey, but you can find life and happiness again.”

“You are not alone; there are those that truly understand. Tell us all about it and then tell us again.”

“What you are experiencing is normal. Feeling like you are losing your mind and the inability to focus or concentrate are all expected. Give yourself grace to get through them. Be honest with yourself and those around you about what you need.”

“Get prompt access to another (seasoned) suicide loss survivor.”

“It wasn’t your fault. Feel the feelings. Cry, cry, cry.”

“No two people grieve the same way. Your relationship with that per- son was your own, and therefore, your grieving might be different than others.”

“You are not alone. You will have good and bad days. Don’t beat your- self up. Different people grieve in different ways for the same person. Although you will never get over your loss, your grief won’t always be so overwhelming, and it is possible to feel happy again.”

“I understand and I feel your devastation.”

“You are not alone. Reach out to others. Share your story. Let yourself grieve, and don’t feel guilty about it.”

“If you feel it, acknowledge it, and don’t let anyone tell you shouldn’t feel that way. Listen to your own emotions and physical reactions. Talk. And if something is important for you to do while grieving, don’t let any- one tell you it’s wrong.”

Check out a video trailer for the book, The Gift of Second: Healing from the Impact of Suicide here.

You can grab a copy of the book on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

One Response

  1. Wendy Faust
    | Reply

    This all is very good advice to read today ! I also lost my son to this mental illness I think ! he died by suicide ,he did not plan this but he was a tourtured soul that was treated badly by another person that did not love him back.
    He did come to me in a dream
    and told me he didn’t mean to do it , this makes it so much worse that I couldn’t save him that’s what I struggle with that I couldn’t save him
    I had another dream he fell off a bridge into the water again I could not save him
    So I’m glad I read this today
    It really helps !
    Thank you and may you all have peace in your hearts today 🙂

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