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On Losing Loved Ones to Suicide: 15 Ways to Celebrate Their Lives

By HERWriter
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Losing Loved Ones to Suicide: 15 Ways to Celebrate Their Lives Erwin Wodicka/PhotoSpin

Whether you lose a family member, close friend or even an acquaintance to suicide, it can be difficult to cope with nonetheless.

International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day is held on Saturday, November 22, 2014. Its aim is to provide a bigger support network for all people going through various stages of grief and healing over the loss of a loved one to suicide.

You don’t have to participate in events to get the support you need, but if you are interested, here are some support events around the world.

There is also an online event for people who can’t attend an in-person event.

In order to help you cope the rest of the year, here are some tips on how to positively celebrate the lives of loved ones lost to suicide, as well as cope with the loss.

In the case of a high school friend of mine who committed suicide, a memorial page/group was built on Facebook, which is still active.

Paul Granello, a licensed professional clinical counselor and member of the American Counseling Association, shared his five coping tips via email:

1) “It is important to celebrate the life and not discuss the means or method of the suicide in any way. The goal is to minimize the risk of contagion or a copy-cat suicide.”

2) “It is always best to hold a funeral or other service away from the location where the suicide occurred.”

3) “I lost my brother to suicide and I light a candle on his birthday each year. I am remembering his life and not the anniversary of his death.”

4) “Find a support group. Often people in your family or friends may have a difficult time talking about a suicide death because of the stigma around mental health in general, but suicide in particular.”

5) “Do not hesitate to get professional counseling help for yourself or a loved one, this is a big deal and should not be minimized or emotionally stuffed. Get help early - do not wait till you are in a major depression.”

Jenise Harmon, a psychotherapist who has worked with survivors of suicide in Columbus, Ohio shared her seven tips via email:

1) “It’s important to realize that you, a survivor of suicide, [have] the right to celebrate the life of the one you lost. They were important, they were loved.”

2) “Either by yourself or with others, write a letter or card to your loved one. Tell them what you love about them, what you miss.”

3) “Have a celebration – gather those who loved them. Tell stories together, eat food that reminds you of them, laugh and cry together.”

4) “Write an article or a blog post about the one you lost, and share it. Let the world know about them.”

5) “Keep their memory alive. Don’t be afraid to talk about them at family gatherings.”

6) “You are not alone. When you are a survivor of suicide, there can be an intense feeling of shame. Don’t become stuck in this. You deserve to grieve and mourn. You also deserve to be able to celebrate and remember the good times.”

Dianna Bonny, a survivor of suicide and advocate, lost both her husband and her best friend. She shared a couple of her methods that have helped her and her children through the grieving process:

1) “Rituals are a great way to reorganize traumatic energy. My children wrote letters to their father and then we burned them in a ceremonial way. Also, making prayer flags from old clothing can be a way of repurposing old memorabilia.”

2) “It is so important to honor oneself in the aftermath. Suicide creates a giant void that will easily fill with blame, shame and guilt if not properly tended too. Be highly attuned to the things you allow to fill that space by making a conscious choice to heal, and cultivate a regular practice of extending compassion and forgiveness to yourself.

“Be proactive and explore the many wonderful healing modalities available now that can make a huge difference: meditation, tapping, breath work and [eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy to name a few.”

Nancy Irwin, a therapist, suggested celebrating what a loved one stood for in life by such acts as creating a scholarship in their name, donating to their favorite cause, putting a placard on a park bench, or planting a tree or garden in a local park.


American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day. Web. November 19, 2014.

International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day. About Survivor Day. Web. November 19, 2014.

Granello, Paul. Email interview. November 19, 2014.

Harmon, Jenise. Email interview. November 18, 2014.

Bonny, Dianna. Email interview. November 18, 2014.

Irwin, Nancy. Email interview. November 18, 2014.

Reviewed November 20, 2014
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.