In the first few years after my son Noah’s suicide, I clung desperately to every memory, every possible explanation, every offer of support or comfort from friends or strangers. I couldn’t let go of the living Noah and my living love for him, even though I knew he was gone and our connection would have to change. And I couldn’t shake my sense of guilt for not being able to save him. Letting go of these things felt like abandoning my child.
Being told to “let go” while grieving a suicide sounds like the common wisdom to “get over it” or “be strong” so we can “move on.” Many of us need to sit with our grief for a long time. Some survivors wait months or years before they’re ready to sort through their loved one’s belongings or clear out their room or apartment. Some cling to anger at God or doctors or relatives who they blame for the suicide. While a small number of survivors may get stuck in extreme forms of unhealthy grief, most of us should not be hurried or pushed. It’s when we allow ourselves to fully express, explore, and process our grief, experts say, that we become open to post-traumatic growth. (And survivors with PTSD from the suicide may need professional help, like EMDR therapy, as part of healthy processing.)