Healing From Suicide Loss

My brother died by suicide when I was sixteen.  And although I honor that the journey through suicide loss is different for each of us I want you to know that you are not alone.  There are many of us out here who understand what you are going through.  This road can be exhausting, heavy, and at times you will feel as if it stretches on forever. You will get through this.

Whether you have lost a child, a parent, a spouse, a friend, or a sibling the journey will require patience and support because suicide grief is complicated.  We can get caught up in trying to understand what happened, what we could have done to prevent our loved one from leaving this world, and why they ultimately chose to leave.  We beat ourselves up, blame others, and can feel lost in the dark.

It took a long time for me to get out of what many grief experts refer to as the canyon on “why.”  We move through it at different times only to slip right back in once again.  But now I understand that Kevin did not think he had a choice at the time he took his life.  Overwhelmed with psychological pain, for many at risk who are having what some people refer to as a “head attack,” suicide may seem like the only option.  My brother, along with many others, didn’t know he could ask for help, that there are always solutions, that his life had purpose, and that he was never a burden.

It has been over thirty years since Kevin died.  Revisiting my own journey I look back at the work I did in my own counseling, the messiness of grief, and also the specific moments where healing happened.  You will find these healing moments as well. Perhaps you can pause right now and identify where the light has already broken through.

Find other survivors

Visit the links I’ve included here to find people who are walking this journey or find a local Heartbeat group in your area.  Participate in events for survivors through the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention (AFSP) and participate in International Survivors of Suicide Day every year (this year it is November 20, 2021) where you can connect with other survivors in a day of mourning across the globe. Ask for help when you need it.

Mark Hard Days on the Calendar

Marking hard days on the calendar (and making sure loved ones know when these days are) is important as you start the healing journey.  I remember needing to mark days, weeks, and even months in the beginning.  I also remember when tender seasons stopped stretching on and on and instead shortened into tender days.

Find Compassion 

There are many survivors who do not have to work through overwhelming anger at their person but there are many who do.  It most certainly didn’t happen overnight but I remember finding compassion for my brother the more I learned about suicide, the cultural stigma surrounding depression, and about the limited access to mental health care that continues to be a challenge for those who need help.

Many survivors of suicide loss I have worked with over the years talk about the importance of advocating for access to mental health services in their communities and the need for suicide prevention programs in our schools.  Many have taken steps to advocate for the changes that we need to prevent additional loss of life.

Be kind to yourself as you heal and know that you are doing the best you can.  Always.

Know When You are Making Progress

I remember having lunch with a friend in the early years and sharing a few stories about my brother that I cherished.  Memories about playing games and family vacations we took as children. It brought tears to my eyes to soak in how I was remembering how Kevin lived instead of always thinking about how he died. Your person will come back as well.  Be patient with yourself.

Do Something With What Happened

It is no accident that I became a therapist working with clients who are dealing with depression, anxiety, and loss. I also work with many who are at risk of suicide or who have survived suicide loss.  Radical Acceptance (along with compassion) is one of the more powerful healers there is and can do wonders to help us get out of our deep desire to change the past.  I can’t do anything about what happened to Kevin but I can do something to help others as a result of my experience.

You will get through this…know help is out here and that you are not alone.

Go gently.

Suicide Prevention Coalition of Colorado



3333 S. Wadsworth Blvd.
Lakewood, CO 80227

12835 East Arapahoe Road
Tower One, Suite P-850
Centennial, CO. 80112

kimjohancen@yahoo.com
(970) 946-8737

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