Most of the practical resources you may find helpful are embedded in the previous pages, with the topics they relate to. Because support and mental health are so important, here are some extra resources to help you manage the intense and protracted emotions you may feel as you try to recover.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has trained peer support volunteers who are also suicide loss survivors. They are available to speak with you by phone, in person (limited availability), by video call (Google Hangout, Skype, Facetime), or via email. When you contact the AFSP to request a visit, they will ask you some questions about your loss so you are matched with a suitable volunteer who has experienced a similar loss. Your peer support volunteer will contact you to schedule a visit at a convenient time and, in the case of in-person visits, at a comfortable location of your choice. The American Society of Suicidology has a list of suicide loss support groups around the United States. Some are led by loss survivors and some by mental health professionals.
The Psychology Today Therapist Finder is a reputable online tool to assist you in finding a counselor in your home area. Here you will find detailed information, including matches with your health insurance and geographic area, for psychologists, psychiatrists, and counselors in the United States and Canada.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a risk for anyone who experiences a severe trauma, and surviving your partner's suicide is definitely that type of event. Most of us have symptoms of traumatic stress in the first months of recovery, because those things can be part the body and mind's natural reaction to extreme stress and exposure to death, but most of us recover our equilibrium at some point. It's helpful to understand the symptoms of PTSD so that you know to seek help if you feel this way. Here are some of the signs. The important thing about PTSD is that the symptoms are very severe. They keep you from functioning normally.
You can find out more about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and it's treatment at the website of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) here.
Worry, anxiety, panic. All these can be part of trying to absorb and cope with the terrible thing that happened to you and your family. Anxiety accompanied me frequently over the course of my journey through loss, and still pops up periodically if the circumstances are right. And it can definitely show up in dramatic physical symptoms; racing heart, sweating, shaking. One year into recovery, after moving into a home of my own, I started having panic attacks every night, sometimes up to four times a night, and did not recognize them as an expression of anxiety. I thought I was sick, and I was. Just not the way it seemed. Only anti-anxiety medicine stopped them, and if you're having severe anxiety symptoms that are affecting your ability to function normally, you should also seek treatment. Learn more about anxiety disorders at the NIMH here.
The grieving of the suicide survivor is crushing, disturbing, immobilizing and not like any other kind of loss experience. We are sad, yes, but we are also furious, and guilt ridden, and completely confused by what happened. If our spouse battled mental illness or substance abuse, lashed out in chaotic anger, or engaged in risk taking behaviors, we may even feel relieved at times, which only exacerbates the guilt. We may be left with debt, or in some other form of sudden practical peril. Frankly, there are too many reasons to get depressed to number, but we have counted all of them. So I'm going to guess that at some point or another, all of us have had a bout of serious depression. What is serious depression, however, and when do you need to seek medical care for it? In a nutshell, if your coping strategies don't keep your head above water, seek help. Start with your personal physician, or start with a counselor. Start somewhere. It's my belief that every spousal suicide survivor benefits from counseling support, and a good therapist will advise you when talk needs to be bolstered by medication. Learn more about Major Depression at the NIMH, here.
If you ever feel so despondent that you contemplate killing yourself, you are not alone. A small percentage of suicide loss survivors become so depressed at the state of their lives, and at the immense pain of their loss, that they contemplate suicide themselves. If you start to feel this way immediately reach out to your physician or therapist, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. It is staffed with trained counselors 24/7.