Navigating grief after a loved one's suicide death

- Last night we were informed of the heartbreaking news that our friend and colleague, meteorologist Jessica Starr took her life. 

All of us here at FOX 2 are in deep shock and cannot believe that such a wonderful, bright and intelligent individual will no longer be with us. Her family and friends will be in our thoughts and prayers in the coming days as we all deal with our grief. 

If you or a loved one is feeling distressed, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The crisis center provides free and confidential emotional support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or text 741-741.

We here at FOX 2 and you, our viewers, naturally have so many questions after learning the news.

Some experts joined us to talk more about processing a loved one's suicide death and navigating its grief. You can watch the conversations with psychiatrist Dr. Doree Ann Espiritu from Henry Ford Health System and therapist Carrie Krawiec from The Birmingham Maple Clinic in the video player above.  

LISTEN, AND ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR FEELINGS

After the initial state of shock, everyone's processing will be different. Some may have nothing to say while others may cry. Some may want to be alone while others prefer being together. Listen to what others are feeling and saying, but also acknowledge your own feelings. 

"It's important to acknowledge your feelings," Krawiec says. "It's okay to experience guilt; that would be a normal feeling or even at times, especially at this holiday time, you may experience happiness but then feel guilty about your own happiness. Just allow yourself an entire range of feelings [and know] that they would all be normal and, at times, confusing."

HANDLING THE 'WHAT IF' QUESTIONS

When a loved one dies of suicide it's hard not to begin thinking about warning signs that may have been missed, or to think if anything could have been said or done.

"I think, in any type of death, there's always a lot of, 'What ifs;' a lot of questions - 'What did I miss?' ... or 'How could I have helped?' Especially, 'Did I see Jessica in pain? Or was there something that I ignored that I actually saw?' But in times like these it makes it even more painful if we continue to question and [try to] find answers because we may never find answers."

Shifting your mindset off the 'What if?' path can admittedly be difficult. Dr. Espiritu says stick to your lifelines during this time, to what "keeps" you and what gives you hope. It may be faith; it may be your family. 

"It's easy to stay in the dark, to think about death. But a lot of times the more questions you have ... the more difficult grief becomes," she adds.

"Give yourself grace," Krawiec says. Don't shame or criticize yourself for not knowing or doing something more because any choice you could've made may or may not changed the outcome, she reminds.

"It is a natural function of the human mind to want to put the holes together; we do that about our dreams or about our memories, we want to ask other people and make the story make sense. Often, it doesn't make sense and to give yourself at least a bit of patience, that, even if you had all the details you would still not completely understand," she says.

REACHING OUT TO LOVED ONES

When a friend dies you may struggle with deciding when, how - or even if - to reach out to their spouse or parents. 

"I think it's important to be patient with those people, but you still be yourself," Krawiec advises. "If you're the kind of person who would make a gesture, make a gesture. But don't expect a response from them; that response will come on their time.

"It's unique to you - if you'd like to make a gesture you could do what would be comfortable or familiar to you, but, keep in mind, if you don't receive an immediate response that's because of what's comfortable for them."

TELLING YOUR KIDS

For many of us here at FOX 2, our children have played with or know Jessica's two children. When, and how, is it appropriate to tell your kids about a death?

Krawiec says it's important to talk about loss with your kids, and you may choose based on the child's age and range how much information you give. A good place to start is when your child starts asking questions, or you can start the conversation by asking them what information they've already heard. 

She does say, though, that just because they ask a question doesn't mean you have to answer immediately. 

"You can say, 'Wow, that's such an important question. So important, I'm going to take some time to talk to some experts and see how to answer that for you.'"

You can hear the full conversations in the video player above. 

Understanding the issues concerning suicide and mental health is an important way to take part in suicide prevention, help others in crisis, and change the conversation around suicide.

You can read more about risk factors and warning signs here.

And, again, if you or a loved one is feeling distressed, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The crisis center provides free and confidential emotional support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or text 741-741.

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