Fear. Anger. Frustration. Terror. Helplessness. Grief. Confusion.
These are all feelings I felt rush through me when my sister attempted suicide. I went through the motions of checking her into the hospital, of sitting next to her while she was examined, of texting updates to our family members. I did all of these things while feeling an overwhelming rush of conflicting emotions. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to scream or cry or both.
A year later, my heart still stops when my mom calls me. Is it bad news? Is my sister okay? I can only start breathing again when my mom tells me “everything is okay, everyone is okay.”
What are we supposed to do when someone we love wants to leave the world? When they actually take steps towards doing that? I don’t have all the right answers for you, but I can share what has helped me.
Telling my people: It is a hard thing to share with others and I felt worried about burdening people close to me. But telling the people in my life who pray for me and love me was important. I needed people checking to make sure that I was doing okay. I needed people praying over my sister. And those people wanted to help me - wanted to be there for me.
Seeing a counselor: Maybe we aren’t talking enough about how much it impacts a person when someone they love attempts suicide. Because I was trying to support my sister while also processing my own fear and grief. I was trying to not make the situation about me and my feelings - even though I was in the situation and was suffering as well. Seeing a counselor helped me sort through the feelings I was having. It helped me figure out how to support my sister and my family while also taking care of my own needs.
Meeting my own needs: What a complicated thing - to care for the person you love without risking your own mental health. I had to figure out the balance of how I could stay mentally “okay” in a situation where my sister wasn’t. Part of meeting my own needs included taking a day off work, spending time with friends and seeing my counselor. Meeting my own needs gave me the strength I needed to help my sister. I couldn’t have offered her any help if I started drowning.
Being comfortable with not knowing what to do: When it comes to your loved one attempting suicide, there is no handbook. No laid out plan of how to respond or how to handle it. That’s okay. Be comfortable with not always knowing what to do or say. Don’t place unrealistic expectations on yourself. Love your loved one in the best way you know how and seek professional help for the rest.
Help your loved one seek professional help: You can not be your loved one’s counselor/therapist/mental health support. You can support your loved one as they receive professional help. You can drive them to appointments or help them get into a new life rhythm. You can encourage them to go to therapy weekly. You can not save them. You can not say or do something that is going to change the state of their emotional health.
Dear reader, I am so deeply sorry if you are reading this because someone you loved has attempted suicide. My heart aches for you and for the one that you love.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.
If you are interested in making an appointment with one of our counselors at Bethel Haven, please call us at 706.310.9046 to schedule an appointment.
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Written by our counselors to help promote your help, hope, healing