Emotions & Challenges:

Secondary Wounds

Loss from suicide creates an immediate and gaping hole in the hearts and lives of survivors. Aftershocks may reverberate long after the funeral is over. While friends and acquaintances return to their everyday lives, those closest to the deceased often struggle with painful emotions for a long time.

Most survivors experience an enormous amount of kindness, from friends, family and community members. People often reach out in unexpected and generous ways. There are times however, when others may not deal as sensitively with what happened as one might hope. Whether intentional or unintentional, lack of support, hurtful comments or intentional blame, has a profound impact on survivors who are already raw with grief and guilt.

Secondary wounding can occur in a number of ways including:

Denial and Disbelief:

Sometimes, survivors relate information about the suicide or subsequent events to others, but are not fully understood or believed. For example, they may be told: “that couldn’t have really happened that way –you were just confused.”

Discounting and Minimizing:

On other occasions survivors’ grief may be dismissed or discounted. Comments might include statements like: “Why are you upset? You knew he was depressed!” “Aren’t you over it yet?” or “At least you still have other children.”

Blaming Survivors:

Relations can become very strained following a suicide when people blame each other – overtly or covertly. Blame can take the form of malicious gossip or directed comments such as “Well, maybe if you hadn’t …” “You should have never …” “That’s what you get for ….”

These are all ways of making survivors feel they do not have a right to their pain. It is a way of saying there is something wrong for letting the pain get control.

Because new survivors are already so raw with grief, they have little resilience. The pain, disappointment and anger which is generated at these times becomes entangled in the original pain and can live on for years.

The grief from suicide is often traumatic and complicated and for that reason alone, may take longer to process that other grief. Survivors suffer terribly and have a right to mourn in their own time and in their own way. The torturous pain will not last forever. Life will never be the same, but healing does and will occur.