Coping with Loss/Is this normal?

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Question
Hi,
My friend committed suicide in September and, although I feel I'm not struggling with things as much as I was, the nightmares have become worse. They are always about death and have recently become violent in nature and terrifying (I wake up and am too scared to go back to sleep). Is this normal, please? If so, when will it go away?
Also, I'm still getting panic attacks if things to do with suicide are mentioned when I'm not expecting them to be, such as if I see something in the news. I'm not sure if this is meant to happen.
Thank you,
From Libby

Answer
Dear Libby:

First, let me say how sorry I am to hear of your friend.  I imagine, by now, you already know the steps we go through after losing someone to suicide: shock, anger, guilt and despair.  We are in shock because we didn't 'see' it coming.  Depressed people are very good at hiding their feelings.  A few years ago, my friend's brother visited each family member on Christmas
Eve.  He wanted to be sure each one knew that he loved them.  Then he went home and killed himself.  In his mind, he had taken 'care' of everything and had everything in order.

We become angry because we turn everything inward.  'What could I have done to prevent this?'
'How could I have stopped him from doing this?'  'Maybe if I had told him I loved him more often.'  The truth is, he was going to do this no matter what you said or did.  Of course we feel guilty because we're here and they are not.  And we're guilty because we didn't see something was wrong.  And we're guilty because we 'let' it happen.  We suffer with despair because we are gripped by sadness, loneliness and helplessness.  These are natural steps that are devastating but we need these to begin our journey to healing and acceptance.

You need to remember that your loved one did not die to get away from you. People usually commit suicide  because they feel they have to die to get 'away from themselves' or away from a situation.  Sometimes they just feel they have to die to get away from their on-going feeling of sadness.

You've heard the expression, 'think outside the box'.  A deeply depressed person is stuck in that box.  They are consumed by their sad feelings and feelings of hopelessness.  They cannot see anything else.  So where does that leave you?   The following are some suggestions that have helped others and might be of help to you.  

Talk to others who knew this person.  There is strength in numbers.
 
Remember it is okay to cry.  If you feel like crying, let it go.  Sometimes tears have a magical way of releasing sadness.  Have you ever had a friend who, after breaking down in tears, dried her face and said, "well, I feel better."

Try to dwell on the good times you had with your friend.
 
Stay in touch with friends.  Don't isolate yourself.

Grieve in your own way.  Some people visit a friends'/family members' grave frequently.  When my mom died, I felt closer to her by looking through my family pictures.  My dad felt closer by visiting the grave.  I took him to the cemetery twice a day, everyday.  I wondered if something was wrong with me because I got no special feeling by standing and looking at dirt.  I knew it helped him to sit by the grave and talk to her.

Be prepared for painful reminders.  It's going to happen.  Things you see and do.

Expect setbacks.  You're human.  You need time.

Seek out a support group.  I've had friends who attended support groups and sing their praises.  It is fantastic what attending a group with other people who have or are going through what you're experiencing can do for you.

Be aware that you might have to turn to professional help.  Please, if you get to that point, when nothing else seems to help, see a professional.  

I have read several articles about dreams.  I think having nightmares is normal but not one bit comforting.  I have read where some experts suggest that you meditate before bedtime and focus your thoughts on pleasant things that you want to dream about.  I have also read articles about meditating and putting an imaginary 'bubble' over yourself right before going to bed to protect you from nightmares.  And then there are 'dreamcatchers'.  

My personal feelings are that as you give yourself adequate time to accept the loss of your friend, and learn to deal with the feelings that come with that and accept that this thing has happened and nothing you could have done or said would have changed it, your nightmares will subside.  

The best thing you can do for your friend is keep his memory alive.  Celebrate the good things and fun times you had with him. Suicide is always a difficult subject but I hope this has been of some help to you.  I would love it if you would keep me up to date on your progress.  You are a very strong and  caring person and your friend was lucky to have you.    Thanks for sharing your feelings with me.  Joanne

Coping with Loss

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Joanne Flint

Expertise

Dealing with the death of close family members and loss of a friend. Dealing with betrayal; how to accept it, deal with it and move on.

Experience

I lost my parents, who died less than eight months apart and a newborn son three months following the death of my mother. A year following this, my brother died suddenly and a 19 year old cousin was crushed to death in a car accident on his birthday. Now I am facing the impending death of a very good friend. I have also dealt with the death of a husband. I have found that talking with people with similiar experiences has helped me and I have been told that it has also helped them greatly.

Education/Credentials
A licensed nurse for twenty four years with several years working on a Psych ward as well as being the Executive Director and Director of Nursing Services for a Group Home for mentally ill and mentally retarded.

Awards and Honors
Awarded top clinical and top academic grade at my nursing graduation. Also was a member of the English Honors' Class while attending a local college.

Past/Present Clients
I don't share information about people with whom I talk, unless given permission. I am not a doctor, but I have given insight and hope to people just like myself.

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