'Time Doesn't Heal All Wounds': SAVE Discusses How to Grieve a Suicide Loss
1 year ago
Many times, grievers are told that "time will heal all wounds." SAVE (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education) wants the world, especially those grieving a suicide loss, to know that that's just not true. We spoke with Dan Reidenberg, Executive Director of SAVE, about what the grief after a suicide loss looks and feels like, as well as how to help a loved one who's grieving the death of a loved one by suicide.
1. What’s the one piece of advice you give the most often?
That the old saying “time heals all wounds” isn’t necessarily true. Instead, I tell people “time passes, it doesn’t heal.” Healing is hard and must not be ignored or it will come back and hurt.
2. What are some of the universal experiences you’ve seen in your work?
Shock, feeling numb, denial, disbelief, fear, questioning about post-death, deep sadness, healing, laughter, recovery.
3. What’s one thing you’d like to share with a new griever?
Be patient with yourself. Everyone grieves differently and the way you experience grief is yours. Don’t fight it and don’t deny it. Experience it.
4. What are some ways others can help support someone in their grief?
Spending time with them. Letting them grieve for as long as they need to. Bringing up their loved one for months and years to come.
5. Are there any aspects of grief others may find surprising?
I’m not sure about surprising, but grief can include being angry and that sometimes is difficult for people. Another thing that they don’t expect is how hard the grief hits them after some time has gone by. They might hear a song, see someone who looks like their loved one, hear a similar voice and that can be 2 years after a death but in a split second brings it all back like it was losing the person all over again. Finally, dreams can be really hard for people, good and bad dreams.
6. Is there anything else you’d like to share that you think can help others?
We don’t deal with death well in our culture and this makes grieving really hard. If we could talk about it more, find ways to accept it as part of life, that would help us in the worst times of our life. I also think people don’t know the major impact of early childhood experiences with grief and loss that affect you as adults. If grief and loss were a challenge for your family and for you as a child, it likely will be as an adult. Finally, it’s helpful to know that while we can never know all of the answers as to how or why we’re having to face grief head on, we can know that everyone has to do this in their lifetime at some point. Rely on others to help you through it, you don’t need to create a new path or even have to travel the road alone, but you do need to go through it and that is a painful reality we all have to experience.
Dr. Dan Reidenberg is the Executive Director of SAVE (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education), a national nonprofit agency working to prevent suicide and help suicide survivors and people suffering from brain illnesses. Dr. Reidenberg serves as Managing Director of the National Council for Suicide Prevention and serves on the Suicide Prevention Resource Center and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline's Steering Committees. He is also the US Representative to the International Assoc. for Suicide Prevention. Dr. Reidenberg is an appointed member of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention’s National Research Priorities Task Force and National Strategy for Suicide Prevention Task Force.
He has a degree in psychology from the University of Minnesota (1988) and a Psy.D. from the Minnesota School of Professional Psychology (1994). Dr. Reidenberg speaks nationally on suicide prevention, conducts crisis management training, and is certified as an aviation disaster responder and a critical incident stress debriefer.
Other Helpful Resources
Crisis Text Line
Text "help" to 741-741 for free assistance, 24 hours a day.