Victims of Suicide
Raymond Shred, PhD
When we hear about a death by suicide, our first thoughts are often about the person who died. We try to imagine why they killed themselves. Many people’s thoughts then turn to the other victims of suicide, the people left behind.
The most obvious victims are the family members, friends, and acquaintances of someone who has completed a suicide. Survivors are left to deal with the loss of a loved one. They may have very conflicting and conflicted feelings. Survivors may be sad at the loss of the person who died; they may be angry at the way he or she left; and/or they may feel guilt or remorse that they didn’t know how the person felt and couldn’t stop them. Survivors of suicide may need help to sort out all of their feelings. They might benefit from participation in either a survivors of suicide group or from professional therapy.
There can be other victims as well. A client of a colleague was injured physically and psychologically when he was involved in a head-on collision with someone who wanted to kill themselves by driving into another vehicle. It has been over four years since that accident but my colleague’s client is still affected by it.
One result is that he is in constant physical pain. This is a result of the injuries received in the accident. It has been exacerbated by the numerous surgeries that have attempted to fix the problem but have not done so. Any activity in which he engages causes an increase in pain. He finds himself sensitive to the weather and movement. So, cold days are bad. But, hot days can be bad too. He would like to go for a boat ride or participate in one of the sports he played prior to his injury but he can’t.
Typically, an increase in the intensity of his pain brings back memories of the accident. After some intense therapy, daily flashbacks and nightmares are no longer present. But being reminded of the accident is still disturbing.
There is an intense anger at the driver of the car who was attempting to kill himself. He is not comfortable with this feeling. He never had feelings like this before his accident.
He continues to have considerable anxiety about driving. He is very uncomfortable when anyone is near him on the road – either coming the other way, or behind him, or beside him. He is looking for the next vehicle that will do the unthinkable and drive into him. However, for him, this is no longer unthinkable.
He had to stop working for considerable periods of time because of the surgeries he has had and the various rehabilitation programs that he has taken. Consequently, he has suffered a considerable loss of income. He worries that he may lose his house and all that he has worked for over the years.
Ironically, one of the worst impacts for this client has been having his own thoughts of suicide. This was never an issue for him before. However, he often feels so overwhelmed by all that he now has to deal with that he finds himself thinking about suicide.
The primary message I hoped to convey in this short article is that suicide can have a profound effect on many people beyond the person who attempts to commit suicide. Sometimes, people feel that suicide may be a solution to their problems or pain but they forget that their suicide will affect a large number of other people. The survivors’ pain just begins when someone completes a suicide. Whatever is affecting someone can be solved; just reach out for help.
Dr Raymond Shred
Nanaimo, British Columbia
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