Attempted suicide is a traumatic event for everyone involved. That includes spouses, children, loved ones and friends. If your spouse attempted suicide, you may feel you are to blame, or not know how to help them. Understanding how best to provide support to your partner is essential to moving beyond a failed suicide attempt.
It’s Normal to Have Strong Feelings About a Suicide Attempt
When a spouse or loved one attempts suicide, it is normal for those around them to have strong emotions. The event will hit differently for everyone. Members of your household could experience:
- Anger or betrayal at your spouse for making the attempt
- Guilt over feeling you could have done more
- Anxiety or insecurity about whether it will happen again
- Powerlessness or helplessness to stop it from happening
- Shame that it happened in your family
Your children’s response to suicide may be very different from your own depending on their age and relationship with your spouse. Reassure everyone – yourself included – that it is okay to have these strong feelings, and that they are a normal response to a suicide attempt. Take time to talk about your feelings together, and keep a eye out for risky behaviors from those closest to your spouse.
Get Help After a Spouse Attempted Suicide
Support your spouse with the help of a psychotherapist who can guide them through recovery after a suicide attempt.
How to Move Forward After a Spouse Attempted Suicide
If your partner suffers from depression or suicidal thoughts you may have worried about a suicide attempt for a long time. A suicide attempt can feel like the end of your relation, even though your spouse survived. But it is important for both of you that you find a way to move forward and avoid making a big life change immediately after a suicide attempt.
You should treat a suicide attempt like any other medical emergency in that sense. Give your spouse, and yourself, time to heal and process your emotions before making any big decisions about your relationship. This is especially important in household struggling with suicide because a negative life event, like a separation, can cause a depressed spouse to spiral even further down. Instead, focus on providing support for your spouse, while seeking support yourself from loved ones or a therapist of your own.
5 Ways to Provide Support to a Spouse After Attempted Suicide
The days immediately following a suicide attempt are especially difficult. As a husband or wife, you will want to be there for your spouse, and help them recover from any suicide-related injuries or emotions. Here are some strategies.
1. Avoid Blame, Shame, or Judgment
While it is natural for you to experience negative emotions around your spouse’s suicide attempt, it is not helpful to express them to your spouse. Remember that a suicide attempt is often an expression of deep emotional pain – depression or anxiety, for example. Be sensitive to how your accusations, criticism, or lecturing will make them feel. Avoid using language that conveys blame, shame, or judgment for their actions. Instead, consider saying that you are sorry they are feeling the way they are, and that you are glad they are still here for you, and for your children.
2. Provide a Safe Space to Establish Trust
Make sure your spouse knows that you are available to them, and that you will listen to their feelings. Often, a person recovering from a suicide attempt will need a safe space to talk about what pushed them to act, and how they are feeling now. Listening and trying to understand their emotional state and perspective can go a long way to reestablishing trust and providing support.
3. Remove Means of Attempted Suicide
A past suicide attempt is a risk factor to a second attempt. If your spouse continues to struggle with suicidal thoughts, take steps to make your home safe by removing items that could fuel or facilitate another suicide attempt:
- Alcohol or drugs
- Belts or rope
- Sleeping pills or other medications that can lead to a lethal overdose
In choosing how to make your home safe, consider the way your spouse attempted suicide before. Many people create a plan for how they will attempt to kill themselves, so a past attempt can give guidance for future safety measures.
4. Create a Plan for Dealing with Emotional Pain
Offer to work with your spouse to investigate and prepare a realistic plan for dealing with strong emotional pain and suicidal thoughts. In attempting suicide, your spouse saw death as a way out of their predicament, whatever that may be. One of the best ways to avoid a repeated attempt is to offer alternative solutions. Remember that the most successful safety plans take place over time. Plan small steps that build up gradually to keep your spouse from feeling overwhelmed.
5. Connect Your Spouse with Support and Treatment
Most importantly, don’t let your spouse go through suicide recovery alone. Depression and anxiety can cause people to isolate themselves. The shame of a failed suicide attempt can escalate that desire, especially given the stigma around suicide. Make sure your spouse knows you love them and connect them with others who can provide love and support.
Make plans to spend time with family and friends, and offer contacts with support groups and therapists who can provide more specialized assistance on the path to recovery. By building a safety net of support, you will improve the chances that your spouse will be there with you for years to come.
David Stanislaw is a psychotherapist with over 30 years of experience. He helps individuals and couples learn strategies to deal with suicidal thoughts, depression, and other mental health disorders within their relationships. Contact David Stanislaw to get help today.