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Losing a Spouse or Partner

This New Life: What I Can Do

It hurts to lose someone you love to suicide. Working toward healing is heartbreakingly difficult. To complicate matters, it often feels like no one else understands. I can’t bring my husband back to life, no matter how much I want that, but there are things I can do to help myself.

On the Alliance of Hope Forum, ordinary people challenge some of the issues survivors face: being told to “get over it,” stigma, and shunning. They do this by sharing their personal stories and strategies for survival. What they say makes me stronger. What they say makes me know I can go on.

The world expected a lot of me when I was at my most vulnerable, just days and weeks after my husband’s death. Grief and healing have no timetable, but the demands of work and social interactions sometimes forced me into compliance with a society that values “masks” and shallow answers like “I’m fine.”

Sometimes, my well-intentioned friends are still not sure what to say. They may be afraid of “attracting” loss to their own lives or of reminding me of my pain. Yet, I long to hear someone say my husband’s name. My heart thrives on shared memories. I want him to be remembered.

I asked myself what I could do to honor the wonderful man he was, and the good life he lived. At first, I felt helpless, but other survivors taught me that I can do many things to accomplish this and contribute to a “new” view of suicide.

I can:

Tell the truth. Share my story without hiding that my loved one’s death was by suicide.

Gather family and friends. Use age-appropriate language to talk about him and to show others it is okay to cry and to remember.

Actively seek healing and projects that honor his life and build resilience and strength – whether done alone, with family, or alongside community members.

Be open to the pain of others. Each survivor within a family may react differently following a suicide, but patience and counseling, if needed, can go a long way toward mending broken hearts.

Accept opportunities to share what I’ve learned with individuals and groups.

Suicide is not contagious, but compassion should be. Suicide has been cloaked in secrecy until recent years, but that is changing. The truth about suicide is beginning to emerge, and it is survivors who are leading the way. I want to be among them.

About the Author

Jan McDaniel

Jan McDaniel volunteers as an Alliance of Hope forum moderator, manager, and blog content provider. She is also a regular contributor to Psych Central’s World of Psychology blog and writes about survival, connection, and hope on her website.Read More »