BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. – Art therapy is a form of expression for Violet Baily and it’s helped her overcome painful experiences like the suicide of her son’s father.
For a long time, she lived burdened with a heavy sense of guilt.
“Just thinking I should have spent more time with him, that my son should have spent more time with him, that we should have spent more time together as a family,” Bailey said.
Claudia Vicencio, clinical supervisor of Memorial Healthcare’s Behavioral Health Outpatient Center, said Bailey’s feelings are typical.
“In people who have survived the loss of someone we find the grief reaction is different than someone who has a loss from something else like a car accident or a medical condition,” Vicencio said.
Unlike other forms of loss, Vicencio said survivors of suicide often feel that somehow they should have been able to prevent it.
“A lot of times the person will try to retrace their steps or have obsessively intrusive thoughts going back to the last time they saw them; wondering what were they doing and what was going on,” she said.
Along with anger, Vicencio said survivors can suffer from feelings of rejection.
“Like this person could have stayed for me but they didn’t,” she said.
There is also confusion.
“Because my mind cannot make sense of why this person killed themselves,” she added.
Vicencio said there is an increased risk of depression and suicidal behavior among survivors which is why individual and group therapy is vital.
“We are actually preventing future suicide by helping these people understand what’s going on and by providing support,” she said.
Bailey continues to participate in support groups, helping herself and other survivors of suicide.
“I understand it’s not my fault. For many years I blamed myself but I’ve come to peace with that and my faith has helped me with that,” Bailey said.
Vicencio said society still attaches a stigma to suicide which means survivors may encounter blame and judgement rather than sympathy and compassion.
She said that just by reaching out, you can help take that painful stigma out of the equation.