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Navigating the Pain of Suicide in Black Communities: Healing After Loss

 Being devastated by the loss of a loved one to suicide can leave you with crippling emotions of remorse and shame. When you are a member of the Black community, which frequently has particular difficulties and stigmas related to mental health and suicide, these emotions can become even more complicated.  According to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in November 2021, the suicide rate in the United States as a whole dropped by 3% in 2020, but has risen notably among Black males, during this time (Hoskin et al. n.d.). According to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, the suicide rate among Black men was three times that of Black women between 2011 and 2020 (Hoskin et al., n.d.).

Equally troubling, the Office of Minority Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services discovered that, among Black persons aged 15 to 24, suicide was the second-leading cause of death in 2019 (Hoskin et al., n.d.). Additionally, in accordance with a report issued in December 2019 by the Emergency Task Force on Black Youth of the Congressional Black Caucus, Suicide, and Mental Health: For Black kids aged 10 to 19, suicide is the second-leading cause of mortality (Hoskin et al. n.d.).

This article discusses five tips on how to reflect on a loved one and celebrate their life.

The first step would be to acknowledge the pain (Diedrich & Warelow, 2002). It is normal to experience a range of feelings after a loved one commits suicide, including shame and guilt. You might wonder if there was anything you could have done better, whether you missed any warning signals, or if there was anything further you could have done to assist. In Black communities, there may be additional pressure to present a front of toughness and resiliency, which can make it more difficult to openly discuss these difficult subjects (Hoskin et al., n.d.).  It is critical to realize that you are not alone in experiencing these emotions. Others who have undergone this have succeeded in finding closure after recognizing the pain and accepting it while remembering their loved ones (Harris, 2011). Although it is not necessary to provide personal information, talking about one’s loss and emotions can be a crucial step in the healing process (Diedrich & Warelow, 2002).

One could also seek assistance. For instance, they may contact those who can lend a sympathetic ear and understanding, such as friends, family, or support organizations (Diedrich & Warelow, 2002). One does not need to carry this weight by themselves. The shame and guilt that come with talking about your feelings can be reduced, which makes it simpler to deal with your loss. An individual can also remember their lives and cherish the wonderful times they had with their loved ones rather than just dwelling on their passing (Diedrich & Warelow, 2002). To preserve the good parts of their life, make a memory book or tell stories to friends and family.

In addition, a person can express their emotions by writing in a journal or a letter, which can be helpful. Writing down your feelings might bring relief and insight (Harris, 2011). You might also express your sentiments and thoughts to your loved one in a letter. Also, establish a memorial by e.g., planning a funeral or establishing a memorial in their honor (Harris, 2011). One may dedicate a scholarship, plant a tree, or donate to a charity that is important to them. This proactive attitude can help a person transform their sorrow into something worthwhile (Harris, 2011).

Furthermore, one should not be afraid to ask for professional assistance (Harris, 2011). Counselors and therapists have received training in assisting clients in navigating difficult emotions like mourning. For instant help, one can dial the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

A mourning individual should keep in mind that mending takes time, and it is okay to feel vulnerable occasionally. And although you may feel guilty and ashamed, neither you or the memory of your loved one is defined by these emotions. You can find a way to honor the life of a loved one, and carry on their legacy, and end the taboo around suicide in Black communities by reaching out, sharing your feelings, and making constructive efforts toward recovery.