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November Mental Health Memo: Survivors of Suicide Loss Day


Survivors of Suicide Loss Day

About the author: Catelyn Reimnitz is a program specialist supporting Suicide Prevention and Crisis Services under the South Dakota Division of Behavioral Health’s Office of Prevention and Crisis Services.


In the United States approximately 44,000 people die by suicide each year. Suicide not only affects the individual, but the health and well-being of others. Each loss leaves family, friends and communities grieving and struggling to understand and cope.


On November 19, 2022, during International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day, friends, and families of those who have died by suicide can come together to find connection, understanding and hope through shared experiences.


Losing a loved one to death by suicide can be unimaginable and the pain that comes with it can be devastating. It can be easy to fall victim to your grief during this vulnerable time. The emotions one feels can be overwhelming and gut wrenching. Some individuals may even feel guilty and wonder how they did not see the signs and if they had, what could they have done to prevent it.


It is important for survivors to adopt some healthy coping habits while working through their grief. For example:


  • Stay in touch. Utilize the supports around you such as family members, friends, or spiritual leaders who can help bring comfort, understanding, and healing to you. Be sure they are individuals that you feel have your best interest at heart and will take the time to listen and talk with you through this time of mourning.
  • Grieve in your own way. There is no “right way” to grieve and there is no time limit to “get over it.” Do what is right for you, whatever that may be, and listen to your needs. Don’t rush yourself. Grief is complicated and you can experience periods of regression. Losing a loved one to suicide is devastating. Give yourself grace during this period.
  • Be prepared for painful reminders. Anniversaries, holidays, and other special occasions can be painful reminders of what was once there whether that be through traditions or something else. Take note of what you are feeling during these times and consider changing the traditions if needed to help alleviate the pain. It is okay to have hard days. Healing is like a rollercoaster; it doesn’t happen in a straight line.
  • Consider a support group or professional help. Sharing your story/grief with others can help you find a sense of purpose and strength. You are not alone. Peer/professional support is out there, know when to reach out.

You may never know why your loved one decided to take their own life and you may feel guilt, extreme sadness, and anger about continuing with everyday living. The intensity of these feelings will lessen. The first step in healing is to understand that suicide is no one’s fault and the grief that follows is complicated. By caring for yourself and learning different coping strategies, you can better manage your pain and work to honor the memory of your loved one.


Those who have lost a loved one to suicide truly are survivors because each day they are surviving their loss in the best way they know how. November 19th is a day to recognize the strength and resilience that survivors of suicide loss have. Together we can be the change.


Resources are available. The Healing After Suicide Loss in Your Life guide is a resource available to those who have lost a loved one to suicide. In addition, the Helpline Center has a packet of resource materials specific to grief recovery for survivors that is available to be mailed or handed out upon request. Visit https://sdsuicideprevention.org/survivor-services/.


To locate Survivor Support Groups in South Dakota, visit sdsuicideprevention.org.


To read previous editions of the Mental Health Memo visit https://dss.sd.gov/keyresources/news.aspx#mhmemo .