A suicide within a family or community brings devastating loss into the calendar, which often impacts future activities for a lifetime. While the intensity of the pain can diminish over time, the sadness and, at times, anger that comes with this type of loss is unavoidable.
One possible option is to create a celebration on a different day and leave the day of the suicide or loved one’s birthday reserved for grieving. Unfortunately, this strategy does not always work. For instance, if a twin loses the other twin to suicide, their birthdays and the loss are forever intertwined. In a situation such as this one, sometimes what we do as counselors is work with the family to contain the two experiences. At first, this can seemlike an overwhelming challenge, but over time the human brain has the imagined ability to learn new patterns. For example, the celebration is contained to a specific time of day and may occur first, leaving time for grieving at the end of the day when weariness can create a struggle in managing emotions. For other families I have worked with, they want the grief to be first andthen end the day with the celebration of life, while moving forward with a celebration of other significant holidays or life events.
Honestly, there is not one solution that works for every family. However, I have witnessed working with families as they walk through the devastating grief that the ending of life brings and as they heal, they are often able to find creative solutions that work for them. These solutions take time and do not work very well in the beginning, but over time the brain can be retrained. As the intensity of the grief changes, families can once again celebrate together the life that was lost and create other positive moments as they continue living and embracing an abundant life.