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Surviving Suicide Stigma

One of the greatest challenges to surviving a suicide death loss and moving forward in one’s grief is the prevalent and damaging stigma that continues to be associated with this cause of death. This stigma is complicated by public misunderstanding of suicide, long-held myths about suicide, and the problematic language used to talk about suicide and the deceased. Moving forward with a suicide death loss is one of the most difficult experiences we may face in our lives, but if we can begin to unpack and understand the roots of the stigma that clings to suicide in our culture, we may become more empowered to challenge them and attain some healing in our personal bereavement.

Surviving Suicide Loss

In 2018, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. That statistic alone is troubling, but suicide is also the second leading cause of death for Americans ages 10-34, and the fourth leading cause of death for those ages 35-54. While we do not yet have a complete picture of the long-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on suicide deaths, experts agree that the many stressors and complications to physical safety, social interaction, financial status, and mental wellbeing may well culminate in an even greater rise in suicide deaths than we’ve seen over the last decade. While the prevalence of suicide in our culture is in itself tragic, the grief of losing a loved one to suicide is often overwhelmingly isolating and, literally, unspeakable. After the death of a loved one to suicide, we may feel untethered from our understanding of the world, encased in shock that weighs on us like a block of ice, only to reach out for support that we may not receive.