Ways to Help Yourself

Photo by Dee Peterson As you move through your grief, remember that there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Each person grieves in his or her own way and in his or her own time.

Research shows that your emotions and your body are more vulnerable at this time. Most people experience a bewildering variety of emotional and physical responses as they move through the aftermath of suicide. It is important to take special care of yourself as you work your way through the traumatic injury you have suffered. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Remember that the effects of suicide grief are both emotional and physical.  People in suicide grief may experience sleeplessness, exhaustion, light headedness, changes in appetite, or a variety of pains in the throat, chest, abdomen, back or head.  Your emotional experience cannot be separated from your physical responses.  For example, tears of grief have been analyzed and shown to contain toxins the body needs to expel, unlike other tears which are mostly saline in content. One test concluded that that the body, when crying in sadness is flushing out toxic-chemicals that accumulate and are a part of the sadness /heartache experience.
  • Breathe.Inhale as fully as possible using your abdomen and lungs. Exhale completely, pushing out all of your breath slowly and fully.  This stimulates the vagus nerve, which is one of the main stimulators of the relaxation response. Our body does it naturally when we take a deep sigh. If you can take 10 or 20 deep sighs a day with intention to help relax the body, it may help stimulate the relaxation response.
  • Take care of the basics of life. Eat, sleep, exercise, drink plenty of water – and keep remembering to breathe.
    Photo by Dee Peterson - copyright 2013 Dee Peterson
  • Identify healthy ways to manage your pain and stress.  Consider listening to CD’s of music or guided imagery engineered to calm your brain state. Some people find certain essential oil scents helpful. Having something to hold, such as a palm cross, rosary, or worry stone may be helpful.  Our resource page can help you begin to identify options.
  • Communicate and connect as much as you are able. Find a safe place to talk about your loved one and about your feelings – a friend, family member, spiritual leader, support group, or grief counselor.
  • Learn about suicide and about suicide grief.  Suicide is more common than most people realize.  There are a number of websites, books, DVD’s, and articles by scholars, researchers, and fellow survivors.
  • Consider keeping a journal. It is one place where you can say whatever you want – and for many people, it helps bring some clarity out of the confusion.
  • Create rituals, or other special ways to remember the one you’ve lost. Find special ways to honor the memory of your loved one. Some people wear a pin or other commemorative ornament; others construct an alter or personal memorial,  make a memory album, donate money in their loved one’s name, or light a candle or set a place at the table on birthdays or other important occasions. Fellow survivors are a good source of ideas.
  • Seek a sense of purpose.  Making a regular commitment of your time and presence to a cause you consider worthy can help you feel stronger.  Volunteering or joining a special interest group can help you reach outside yourself and your grief to discover new perspectives on the world that can help close your wounds and reaffirm your own commitment to life.