Suicide Survivor Guilt & Grief: 3 Thoughts to Aid the Healing Process

With what seems like so many celebrities and social media influencers committing suicide, the topic of mental health is finally being more openly discussed. Suicide prevention hotlines and commercials are everywhere. 

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the 12th leading cause of death in the United States. In 2020, 45,979 Americans died by suicide, and there were an estimated 1.2 million suicide attempts.

While those numbers are staggering, what about the ripple effect?  It is estimated that each suicide results in 135 people who knew that person being impacted. Those left behind may have flashbacks, nightmares, guilt, shame, remorse, and potentially less desire to socially interact for weeks or months afterwards—especially if they were a witness or found the person.

One emotional health expert believes survivors can heal their guilt and grief, not just cope.

Drenda Thomas Richards, a spiritual teacher, mindset healer, and former police officer has firsthand experience with suicides and their ripple effects.

“It’s been over 30 years, and I still remember the scene and the two young daughters left behind—one of whom had walked into the bedroom looking for her mother. I often wonder how those two young girls are doing. Not only did the girls have to deal with suicide but also knowing their dad killed their mother before shooting himself in the room next door. I can’t imagine the confusion they must have dealt with. Their grandfather came immediately to pick them up, but he was also dealing with the suicide of his son. Everyone at the scene, including the cops and paramedics, were emotionally and mentally impacted.” 

Recently, the much-beloved Twitch left behind a wife and three children. Not only will his survivors deal with grief and loss, but there’s an added layer of guilt and the blaming of themselves or others. 

Emotions after suicide are complex and layered—especially if there are religious beliefs involved.

Drenda believes when a person commits suicide, he or she is not in his or her right mind (due to a chemical imbalance or mental illness), and a loving God treats mental illness like any other illness, which is not a sin. She hopes readers can find comfort in this.

It’s natural to feel shock, anger, or to blame yourself after a suicide. Drenda offers three things to remember to help the healing journey:

3 Points to Remember that Aid the Survivor’s Healing Process:

  • They are no longer in pain.

The person who took their own life and the emotional, mental and/or physical pain he or she endured that drove him or her to this dark place is gone. They are free. It’s ok to feel a sense of relief.

  • You are not responsible for the actions of others.

Death by suicide is complex. It doesn’t happen because of one event, one conversation, or one person. It’s not your fault.

  • You can be happy and enjoy life again, guilt-free.

You will cycle through stages of grief and may do so many times. You can come to a place of acceptance if you allow yourself to. Moving forward with your life doesn’t mean you love the person any less or that you won’t remember them. 

Suicide leaves behind many questions and rarely any answers to ease the pain and grief, however, you can overcome this trauma and tragedy and heal. 

This traumatic situation does not have to define or to control you.

To learn more about Drenda, check out her website where you can start your healing journey. She can also be found on Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok as @drendathomasrichards.

Suggested reading for those suffering from mental iIllness, those who want to learn more, or anyone who is worried about a loved one and wants to be proactive:

Understanding the Different Levels of Mental Illness

The Dark Corners of One’s Mind: How to Tell If Someone is Suffering from Mental Illness

Working From Home Depression Symptoms and Tips