The statistics are staggering. 122 people die by suicide each day in the United States, or just over 44,530 each year. On average, anywhere from 8 to 10 people are affected by each suicide, and we call them survivors. That’s 968 new survivors a day and 353,320 a year.
We hear a lot following a suicide, including a proliferation of information on warning signs and awareness, but little or nothing about the person left behind. The moment a person becomes a survivor, their past, present, and future are compressed into a single moment in time which will define much of the rest of their life to come. Any coping skills a person possessed up to that point usually can’t hold up to this extreme stress, and putting the pieces back together is often a moment to moment struggle before it can become addressed day by day.
There are many myths and misconceptions about those who grieve such a loss, and survivors just want to be understood. But, how does one explain what is seemingly incomprehensible? What makes suicide grief different from other types of grief and why is it so hard for survivors to talk about it?
Healing is a process and this profound loss calls for the help of professionals and fellow survivors including counselors, support groups and those willing to share their training and experiences through their advice and the story of their personal journeys. I encourage suicide survivors to seek all means available to help them heal. Your pain matters. Your experience matters. Your healing matters. No one can take that away from you.
Pat Mashburn is the author of “Just Breathe— Surviving a Loss to Suicide” and served as a volunteer crisis responder with law enforcement and the St. Tammany Parish Coroner’s Office for five years.