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Counseling & Psychological Services
Montana State University
P.O. Box 173180
Bozeman, MT 59717-3180

Tel: (406) 994-4531
Fax: (406) 994-2485
Location: 211 Swingle
> Counseling & Psychological Services
Counseling Services

The Aftermath of Suicide

The tragic suicidal death of a family member, close friend, or well-known figure has a powerful and upsetting impact on us. It is difficult to imagine how someone who seems energetic, outgoing, and positive could come to feel that death is the only alternative to living with the pain of depression. Many of us are left feeling confused, shaken, and vulnerable. This type of depression is truly an overpowering disease that is almost impossible to understand unless you have suffered from it. It leaves most of its victims with overwhelming feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.

The aftermath of this can be anguishing for many of us. We can often end up with a jumble of emotions which can include sadness, helplessness, guilt, and even anger. Frequently we find ourselves wondering whether these feelings are "normal", or acceptable. Sometimes it can be helpful to have something concrete at hand to provide us with a reference about what to expect in this process. In response to this, the following summary outlines some of these typical reactions and ways to cope with this loss.

It is important to recognize that we all deal with grief and loss in different ways, and at an individualized pace. There is no one "right" way to respond. It can be very helpful during this time to reach out to others in whatever ways feel comfortable. This might include connecting with friends and family, or perhaps trained professionals. We at the Counseling Center want you to know that we will be available to help people heal through this process in any way that we can. Please don't hesitate to contact us.

Grief and Loss Stress Reactions

When a tragic loss occurs, you will experience normal reactions to the experience you've had. These reactions might include:
Physical Reactions
Fatigue Nightmares Changes in appetite
Insomnia Exhaustion Digestion problems
Underactivity Hyperactivity Headaches
Cognitive Reactions
Difficulty concentrating Flashbacks Inability to attach importance
to anything other than the incident
Difficulty solving problems Memory disturbance
Difficulty making decisions Isolation
Emotional Reactions
Fear Anxiety Anger
Guilt Depression Irritability
Emotional numbing Feelings of helplessness Frustration with bureaucracy
Over-sensitivity Amnesia for the event Violent fantasies
These are normal reactions and, although painful, are part of the healing process. There's not a lot anyone can do to take away the uncomfortable feelings, but there are things you can do to manage your reactions and make the healing process more bearable.

Stress Reactions

THINGS TO TRY
  • WITHIN THE FIRST 24-48 HOURS, periods of strenuous physical exercise alternated with relaxation will alleviate some of the physical reactions to stress.
  • Structure your time - keep busy.
  • Talk to people - talk is the most healing of medicines.
  • Beware of numbing the pain with overuse of alcohol or other drugs. You don't need to complicate this with a substance abuse problem.
  • Reach out - people do care.
  • Keep your life as normal as possible.
  • Spend time with others.
  • Help your coworkers as much as possible by sharing feelings and checking out how they're doing.
  • Give yourself permission to feel rotten.
  • Keep a journal, write your way through those sleepless hours.
  • Do things that feel good to you.
  • The Nutrition Almanac recommends supplementing your diet with Vitamin C, Vitamin B-2, Vitamin B-6, Calcium, and Magnesium.
  • Don't make any big life changes.
  • Do make as many daily decisions as possible that will give you a feeling of control over your life, ie. if someone asks you what you want to eat - answer them even if you're not sure.
View Text-only Version Text-only Updated: 12/17/08
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