Dear Survivor …

I’d like to tell you a little about Iris Bolton, an amazing woman from Atlanta, Georgia.  Iris is the Director of the Link Counseling Center, a survivor of the suicide of her son Mitch, and author of the eloquent book “My Son, My Son.”  Iris has been helping survivors of suicide for many years, traveling, speaking, writing and supporting families in countless ways.

Recently I was invited to participate in training new Volunteers of TIP (Trauma Intervention Program). When asked to share information that was (or would have been) helpful to me at the time of my husband’s death, I started to write out a number of suggestions and thoughts. I quickly realized that I was reinventing the wheel, as I have something Iris wrote called “Beyond Surviving” (which is in my packet of handouts for SOS) that beautifully covers a multitude of tips for survivors.

Before you read “ Beyond Surviving”, I would like to preface her ideas with a few of my own suggestions for immediate help. Please note that there is a little overlap, since some of Iris’s tips are so vitally important, they bear repeating ….

     ………Jeri Livingstone, SOS / Crystal Cathedral

…. Jeri Livingstone

Your family has been touched by tragedy. You can survive this tremendous sorrow … please believe that.

From the very first day, make caring for yourself a high priority. Although you may have enough adrenalin to rise to the occasion … even making arrangements, spreading the word, caring for other family members, receiving condolences, etc, you must safeguard your physical and mental health to the best of your ability. For instance:

    Following is Iris Bolton’s “Beyond Surviving – Tips for Survivors.”

Beyond Surviving: Suggestions for Survivors

  • Know you can survive. You may not think so, but you can.
  • Struggle with “why” it happened until you no longer need to know “why” or until you are satisfied with partial answers.
  • Know you may feel overwhelmed by the intensity of your feelings but all your feelings are normal.
  • Anger, guilt, confusion, forgetfulness are common responses. You are not crazy, you are in mourning.
  • Be aware you may feel appropriate anger at the person, at the world, at God, at yourself. It’s OK to express it.
  • You may feel guilty for what you think you did or did not do. Guilt can turn into regret, through forgiveness.
  • Having suicidal thoughts is common; it does not mean that you will act on them.
  • Remember to take one moment or one hour or one day at a time.
  • Find a good listener with whom to share.
  • Remember the choice was not yours.No one is the sole influence in another’s life.
  • Expect setbacks. If emotions return like a tidal wave, you may only be experiencing a remnant of grief, an unfinished piece.
  • Try to put off major decisions.
  • Give yourself permission to get professional help.
  • Be aware of the pain of family and friends.
  • Be patient with yourself and with others who may not understand.
  • Set your own limits and learn to say no.
  • Steer clear of people who want to tell you what or how to feel.
  • Know that there are support groups that can be helpful, such as Compassionate Friends or Survivors of Suicide.
  • Call on your personal faith to help you through.
  • It is common to experience physical reactions to your grief, i.e. headaches, loss of appetite, inability to sleep.
  • The willingness to laugh with others and at yourself is healing.
  • Wear out your questions, anger, guilt or other feelings until you can let them go. Letting go does not mean forgetting!
  • Know that you will never be the same again, but you can survive and even go beyond just surviving.

Iris M. Bolton (reprinted from Suicide and its Aftermath)