Monday, January 19, 2009

Dealing with Friend's Suicide

Q: There have been several suicides at my school in the last few months. I have been very upset about this for a while. I feel lonely and scared. I don’t want to wake up in the morning, thinking some else will die today. How do I deal with this? How can I help my friends who are feeling the same way?

A: Suicide is a very difficult situation to deal with. Often the people left behind, such as family and friends, are left with numerous unanswered questions, the most common being, “why?” Why would someone go against the basic human survival instinct and take his or her life? Many times people are left feeling alone and depressed, some even worry about what would happen if they were in the situation the deceased had been in before committing suicide – would they ever reach that point? The feelings that you have are very normal and real, and you are not alone in having such feelings.

People deal with death and suicide in a number of different ways. Writing, drawing, painting, crying, laughing, singing, talking, reflecting, remembering the good things – there are countless ways of expressing how you feel. The important thing is to find a healthy way of dealing with your feelings and working through your worries and fears, getting back to a more normal way of life. There is no set time limit for how long these feelings will last. It could be weeks, months, or years, depending on how well you and your friends knew the classmates who died. Try talking to a school counselor or teacher. They’re there to listen to you, and they want to make sure you are doing okay. Ask a counselor to have a group discussion with you and your friends if you are concerned about how they feel. Talk to your priest about arranging a memorial service for your schoolmates who died, or about starting a prayer group for the families of those children.

Harold S. Kushner, a Rabbi Laureate in Massachusetts, wrote a wonderful book about dealing with the pain and confusion that surrounds tragic situations, such as suicide. It is called When Bad Things Happen to Good People, and I have given copies of it to a number of people I know who are going through difficult times. He offers insight into why terrible things happen in this world, as well as advice on how to understand the pain and fear that accompanies difficult situations. I would recommend that you (and your friends) read this book, as a means of helping you resolve your loneliness and fear in the wake of these tragic suicides.

Maureen D.