Here are two websites that cover every aspect of PTSD, including what it is, what to do about it, who to contact, and how you can be helpful to others:• U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs PTSD Awareness Month website, which focuses on PTSD in the military and among veterans, and in addition has many helpful resources for the general public
• National Child Traumatic Stress Network, which focuses on caring for children who have experienced trauma
PTSD is an important topic when it comes to dealing with bereavement after a death by suicide, but certainly not everyone who has lost a loved one to suicide suffers from PTSD. PTSD is a concern because suicide is an inherently traumatic way to die, and many survivors are exposed to the trauma. It is inherently traumatic because people who kill themselves, in order to do so, must exert an unnatural psychological force directed at destroying themselves in a way and to a degree that it overcomes the biological drive for self-preservation. In other words, regardless of the method a person uses to kill himself or herself,* it is an act of violence at the psychological level.
I believe there are four ways survivors might be exposed to the trauma of their loved one's death by suicide (again, not all people are affected in all or even in any of these ways):• They might reconstruct and brood over the psychological pain the deceased experienced and over the psychological force that was required for the deceased to kill himself or herself.
• They might have witnessed the suicide, discovered the body, or been exposed to the death scene.
• They might repeatedly replay the events mentally, vividly experiencing the painful moments before the person died, the death, the death scene, and/or the aftermath.
• They might be mistreated or neglected around their bereavement needs because of the negative judgments of others about people who die by suicide (this last instance might not constitute exposure to trauma, strictly speaking, but it merits consideration).
Whether a person has PTSD or not, these painful after effects of losing a loved one to suicide can be very distressful, so taking care of yourself is essential. Please take a look at the resources and suggestions on the "Self-Help and Coping" page from the VA's National Center for PTSD. Also try exercises like visualizing a safe place, which can help you calm your mind and body using a pleasant experience of your own creation.
*In fact, in the United States in 2010, 80 percent of suicide victims actually died by a violent means. Of 38,364 fatalities that year, 30,879 of them were by gunshot, hanging, jumping, cutting, drowning, or burning. (Source: CDC WISQARS)© 2013 Unified Community Solutions. All Rights Reserved.