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The Aftermath Of Suicide

Question:

My 23 yr old son just committed suicide one month ago. I am devastated. I cannot function normally. I am afraid to be out in public. I feel I have no reason to go forward. I use to be very out going……a teacher. I cannot face students…esp my older high school students. They ask questions I cannot answer (about suicide). Guidance counselors want me to help kids like my son because they feel I now have experience in the situation. The world seems to be crashing in on me. I am so weak.

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Answer:

You are in shock of a sort as you begin to grieve for your lost son. This is normal if completely painful and disabling. The overwhelm you feel can be a very normal part of a grief reaction. Your normal strengths and capacities have not abandoned you – but they are not available right now. This is okay. They will be there waiting for you in the future when you are done digesting the first parts of what has happened. Take some time off of work if you want to. Put the guidance counselors on hold until you want to talk to them. It is too early to do what they are asking you to do. You are within your rights to ask them to cease and desist. You may choose to speak to kids about suicide in the future or you may not. Both are perfectly reasonable responses. But – this decision to speak or not to speak is for the future and not for now. You need support. You should not isolate in your pain. It is best if you can share your feelings and reactions and pain out loud with a trusted family member, friend or counselor. In general, the more you are able to talk about it now – the better your adjustment will be in the future. You need to set limits on how much you will talk at the same time. It is not useful for you to overwhelm yourself. Shoot for talking enough so that you feel your pain and stopping when it hints at becoming unbearable. Give yourself time to make peace with this enormous and world-shaking event. This will take some time to do – months probably. You have as much time as you need. You do not have to fit your grief into someone else’s schedule. At the same time – understand that it is in your and your families best interests that you do adjust to this event. Please seek help if it becomes the case that a year from now you are still just as devastated as you are today. Please also accept my sympathies in this time of pain. Dr. Dombeck

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