Recently an older sibling of mine committed suicide. I am devastated along with the rest of my siblings and my mom. This has been the most heartbreaking thing to happen to any of us. My sibling left behind two young children who are having a really hard time understanding. We love them and want to have them in our lives. We hope the other parent will allow it.
I feel like I am on a roller coaster of feelings. One second I’m not crying and the next I am totally sobbing. As cheesy as it may sound, there truly is an empty space in my heart. There is a hole that will never be filled and an ache that will never go away. Some days I feel crazy because it just hurts so much and it seems as if it will never get any better.
There are too many questions that will never be answered. Too many “could-haves, should haves and would haves” that I will never be able to do. All of a sudden I have a new reality and my brain isn’t recognizing it. I don’t feel like doing anything. The normal day-to-day things are really hard. Going out in public is a challenge. I feel sad, deeply sad. I thought I was strong in my faith but this has shaken me and left me with so many questions.
How can I start to get back to living my life and letting go of all of the deep grief and sadness that I feel. I know I will always miss my sibling. I know there will always be sadness regarding the loss of such a wonderful person in my life. But I need to find some peace and start the healing process. Where should I begin?
I am so sorry to hear about your family’s loss. You couldn’t have said it any more accurately when you described the aching hole left by your sibling’s absence. One of the biggest challenges for those left behind in the wake of a suicide is to make sense of the uncertainty surrounding the suicide.
While your reaction is normal for anyone experiencing the unexpected death of a loved one, the additional stress brought on by the possibility that it could have been prevented leaves everyone feeling powerless and overwhelmed.
Please don’t feel any pressure to move past the grief and sadness in a certain time frame. In fact, it’s not a linear grieving process where you eventually don’t feel sadness ever again. Instead, it’s a roller coaster of emotions full of unexpected twists and turns. The best thing you can do is be gentle with yourself and your other family members as each person is on their own path of grief and will need to support each other in different ways at different times.
It’s normal for family members and loved ones to blame themselves for not doing more to prevent a suicide. However, it’s critical that each person close to your sibling accept that this was a deeply personal and private choice made by your sibling that is highly complex. There is so much unnecessary suffering that happens after a suicide when loved ones privately suffer shame and guilt that they could have done more. It’s just not that simple.
Instead, recognize that there are things you just don’t know. Searching for answers can unintentionally lead to blame of self and others. Blame never brings peace.
This is a time when you will benefit the most from reaching out for comfort and connection to others and to God. Even though you are struggling spiritually in the aftermath of your sibling’s suicide, connecting to a power greater than yourself will ultimately give you more perspective and reassurance than you can get alone. Let others comfort you and allow yourself to talk about your feelings with loved ones as much as you need to.
There are no shortcuts to grieving. While it’s normal to want the pain to go away, suppressing it will only prolong the agony. Allow yourself to have good and bad days without any guilt. Your sibling wasn’t one-dimensional and neither should be your grieving process. Allow yourself to enjoy good memories and allow yourself to feel sad. It’s all part of being human.
We are complex creatures full of dark corners and brilliant light. Your sibling deserves to have all aspects of their life remembered, even though the ending was tragic and unexpected.
Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.
Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.