Tips for Surviving the Holidays
This information is a little dated, but the advice is timeless. Please share these with your loved ones this coming holiday season.
Losing someone you love or care about to suicide is probably one of the hardest (if not the hardest) thing you will ever go through in your life. But, there is help for those who want it. The resources listed on this website will give you information, connect you with other survivors, and give you the opportunity to memorialize your loved one. The grieving process after a suicide is long and difficult for most people, but everyone grieves differently. We encourage you to do whatever you need to help yourself through this process as long as it is not harmful to yourself or others. Here are a few general tips for getting through this difficult time:
- Reach out to your friends and family members and let them know what you need
- Seek other survivors with whom you can talk
- Visit your doctor
- Talk to your clergy
- Go to support groups
- Read books for survivors
- Seek counseling
If you have a printer, please print out any information on our, or any other website listed, and distribute to any friends and family members who do not have internet access.
Many of the board members, general members, and volunteers with NMSPC are survivors who have taken their grief and transformed it into action, although, for most of us, it has taken years to get to the point of being able to help other survivors or work toward preventing more suicides. If you would like to help with this work and you feel you are ready, please contact us.
Survivor Support Information
There are many websites on the internet offering a wealth of information for survivors. Be sure to visit the survivor pages of the following national suicide prevention and research organizations:
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP): www.afsp.org
- American Association of Suicidology (AAS): www.suicidology.org
- Suicide Prevention Action Network (SPAN): www.spanusa.org
Other helpful websites:
- HEARTBEAT: www.heartbeatsurvivorsaftersuicide.org
- Sibling Survivors of Suicide: www.siblingsurvivors.com
- Survivors of Suicide: www.survivorsofsuicide.com
- The SOS Handbook: www.suicidology.org/associations/1045/files/SOS_handbook.pdf
- Suicide Awareness Voices of Education: www.save.org/coping
- Friends for Survival: www.friendsforsurvival.org
Online Support Groups/Discussion Links
There are many online survivor groups that can be helpful for you. However, exercise care when on such groups. Groups should be moderated by someone trained to handle the many situations that may come up around such an emotionally charged issue. If you feel that other members of the group you have joined are behaving in a way that is upsetting to you, either contact the moderator or stop visiting that site.
- Friends and Family of Suicides: health.groups.yahoo.com/group/FFofSuicides
- Parents of Suicides: health.groups.yahoo.com/group/parentsofsuicides
- Suicide Discussion Board: www.suicidediscussionboard.com
- Griefnet: www.griefnet.org
- International Friends and Families of Suicide: www.friendsandfamiliesofsuicide.com
- Memory Tree of Lights: www.memorytrees.org
- Parents of Suicide: www.parentsofsuicide.com
- The Suicide Memorial Wall: www.suicidememorialwall.com
New Mexico Support Groups
Suicide Survivor Grief Support Groups
Survivors of Suicide
12010 Dusty Rose Rd., NE
Albuquerque, NM 87122
Group Name: Survivors of Suicide
Contact Person: Al & Linda Vigil
Contact Person: Marion W.
Leadership Type: P/P
Group Name: Clovis Suicide Survivors
Contact Person: Audrey Kittrell
Leadership Type: Peer
Additional Information: Call for meeting times
Group Name: Santa Fe Suicide Survivors
Unitarian Universalist Church of Santa Fe
107 W Barcelona Rd, Meeting in Library
(near corner of Cordova Rd. and Galisteo St.)
Santa Fe, NM
Contact Person: Janet Schreiber
Meetings/Month: 2 – 1st and 3rd Thursdays, 5 to 6:30 PM
Leadership Type: Peer
Other Grief Support Groups
- The Compassionate Friends: www.compassionatefriends.org
Starting a Support Group:
If you are interested in starting a support group in New Mexico and need some assistance, or if you are running a group and it is not on our list, please contact the Coalition by email.
The HEARTBEAT foundation (based in Colorado) also has information on their website on how to start a HEARTBEAT Chapter. This includes a manual of information on how to start a support group, whether you are starting a HEARTBEAT chapter or not. www.heartbeatsurvivorsaftersuicide.org
Books for Survivors
Many of the Survivor pages of the National Suicide Prevention Organizations have bibliographies of books for Suicide Survivors.
Centering Corporation Grief Books and other Materials
Helping Others Cope
For Your Friends
When friends ask how they can help, you might want to give them a copy of this section.
When there has been a death of a loved one by suicide, survivors will experience a depth and range of feelings. It is important to honor and respect the needs of the survivors in the days, weeks and months following the suicide. Often you may feel helpless. These guidelines help you understand what may be comforting to the family. However, before you assume responsibilities, we believe its important to ask survivors whether they need your help. Some survivors gain added strength from performing many of the responsibilities below, while others may want to rely on friends or family for support and guidance.
- Respond honestly to questions asked by the family. You dont need to answer more than asked. If they want to know more, they will ask later.
- Surround them with as much love and understanding as you can.
- Give them some private time. Be there, but dont smother them.
- Show love, not control.
- Let them talk. Most of the time they just need to hear out loud what is going on inside their heads. They usually arent seeking advice.
- Encourage the idea that decisions be made by the family together.
- Expect that they will become tired easily. Grieving is hard work.
- Let them decide what they are ready for. Offer your ideas but let them decide themselves.
- Keep a list of phone calls, visitors and people who bring food and gifts.
- Offer to make calls to people they wish to notify.
- Keep the mail straight. Keep track of bills, cards, newspaper notices, etc.
- Help with errands.
- Keep a list of medication administered.
- Offer to help with documentation needed by the insurance company, such as a copy of the death certificate.
- Give special attention to members of the family at the funeral and in the months to come.
- Allow them to express as much grief as they are feeling at the moment and are willing to share.
- Allow them to talk about the special endearing qualities of the loved one they have lost.
Reprinted with permission, The Link Counseling Centers National Resource Center for Suicide Prevention and Aftercare (see Organizations).
Here are two other thoughts:
- Write down a story about my loved one (especially one that I might not know myself) and give it to me, so that I can read it when Im ready.
- Dont be afraid to say my loved ones name. Dont worry about making me cry; it hurts so much more when no one talks about the person I lost.
Children and Teens
Helping Children Cope
Children are particularly vulnerable to feeling abandoned and guilty. Listen to their questions, and try to offer honest, straightforward, age-appropriate answers.
Survivors frequently seek advice about how to explain suicide to children. Here are some suggestions:
- When you have a choice, tell them as soon as you have the news, in a place where both you and they will feel comfortable.
- Reassure them that the death was not their fault.
- Explain that their loved one died of an illness a brain illness. For example: “Daddy had something like a heart attack except it was a ‘brain attack’.”
- Resist the urge to keep the suicide a secret out of fear that the child will copy the behavior of the deceased. Just as families with hypertension, diabetes or heart disease are educated about early warning signs and prevention, relatives of suicide victims need to understand the early warning signs of depression and other mental illnesses so they can obtain proper treatment.
- Reassure them that you, together with other appropriate adults will take care of them.
- Let them know they can approach you at any time if they want to talk about it.
- Children may express their feelings by crying, withdrawing, laughing, or expressing anger at you or others. Or, they may not. Simply let them know you are available for whatever they need now or at some later time.
- Resume and maintain the childs regular routine as much as possible.
- The greatest gift you can give children is your assurance of love and support. Allow them to express their feelings, answer their questions and provide them with affection.
Adapted from Child Survivors of Suicide: A Guidebook for Those Who Care for Them, by Rebecca Parkin and Karen Dunne-Maxim (see Bibliography).
For suggestions of other resources to help you help children, see the Bibliography. You might also want to contact The Dougy Center, the National Center for Grieving Children & Families. (See Organizations).
What to Tell Children
What children might feel after losing someone they love to suicide:
- Abandoned – that the person who died didn’t love them.
- Feel the death is their fault – if they would have loved the person more or behaved differently.
- Afraid that they will die too.
- Worried that someone else they love will die or worry about who will take care of them.
- Guilt – because they wished or thought of the person’s death.
- Embarrassed – to see other people or to go back to school.
- Angry – with the person who died, at God, at everyone.
- Denial – pretend like nothing happened.
- Numb – can’t feel anything.
- Wish it would all just go away.
A children or adolescent may have a multitude of feelings or he may not feel anything at all. Whatever he’s feeling remember your role, as an adult, is to help. Reassure your child whatever feelings he might experience, he has permission to let them out. If he wants to keep to himself for a while, let him. Don’t tell a child how he should feel, or discourage him from expressing negative emotions like anger.
How do we explain suicide to children or young people?
Age is a factor in understanding and the types of information to provide. Some children are fine with a one or two sentence answer; others might have continuous questions they should be allowed to ask and to have answered. When a child hears that someone “committed suicide” or died of suicide, one of their first questions might be, “What is suicide?” One way to explain is that people die in different ways – from cancer, heart attacks, car accidents, or old age for example. Suicide means that a person caused his or her own death intentionally. If he presses for more detail, use your discretion to help the child understand as much as is appropriate.
Some examples of explaining why suicide happens might be:
- “He had an illness in his brain (or mind) and he died.”
- “Her brain got very sick and she died.”
- “The brain is an organ of the body just like the heart, liver and kidneys. Sometimes it can get sick, just like other organs.”
- “She had an illness called depression and it caused her to die.”
- If someone the child knows, or the child herself, is being treated for depression, it’s critical to stress that only some people die from depression, not everyone. Remind her there are many options for getting help, like medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of both.
A more detailed explanation might be:
“Our thoughts and feelings come from our brain, and sometimes a person’s brain can get very sick – the sickness can cause a person to feel very badly inside. It also makes a person’s thoughts get all jumbled and mixed up, so he can’t think clearly. Some people can’t think of any other way of stopping the hurt they feel inside. They don’t understand that they don’t have to feel that way, that they can get help.”
It’s important to note that there are people who were getting help for their depression and died anyway. Just as in other illnesses, a person can receive the best medical treatment and still not survive. This can also be the case with depression.
A child needs to understand that the deceased loved them, but that because of the illness he or she may have been unable to convey that or to think about how the child would feel after the death. The child needs to know that the suicide was not their fault, and that nothing they said or did, or didn’t say or do, caused the death.
Some children might ask questions related to the morals of suicide – good/bad, right/wrong. It is best to steer clear of this, if possible. Suicide is none of these – it is something that happens when pain exceeds resources for coping with that pain.
Whatever approach is taken when explaining suicide to children, they need to know they can talk about it and ask questions whenever they feel the need. They need to understand they won’t always feel the way they do now, that things will get better, and that they’ll be loved and taken care of no matter what.
From SAVE, Suicide Awareness Voices of Education website
The New Mexico Memorial Quilts