The First 72 Hours After a Suicide Attempt for Loved Ones
What To Expect
- Feelings of guilt, shame, fear, sleeplessness, hopelessness, shock, disbelief, betrayal, frustration, catastrophe, craziness, sadness, rage, anger, and emptiness.
- Depending on the severity and violence of the attempt you may not be able to believe anyone could live through such an event.
- Loss of appetite, feeling like you were kicked in the gut.
- Betrayal or blame from close family, friends, professionals, or first responders.
- Not knowing what will happen or what to tell people you know.
- The suicide attempter asking you to promise you won’t tell anyone. If this happens do not make this promise. It is not fair to you. The suicide attempter may feel embarrassed by their actions but that is not your responsibility. You must keep your options open to ask others for help and to talk about your feelings.
- Blame from the suicide attempter for the suicide attempt.
- Necessity to deal with law enforcement officers, insurance companies, doctors, nurses, and hospital personnel.
- Wishing the attempter had died and joking, threatening or wanting to kill them yourself.
- Possible gallows humor, making jokes others deem inappropriate or makes others uncomfortable.
- The attempter may be released from the hospital to your care. Make sure you have a list of medications and know how to give them, names of doctors and nurses you can call if needed, and an appointment with doctors to follow up with the attempter.
- Program the number 1-800-273-8255 into your cell phone and the cell phone of the attempter. It is The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and is 24- hour resource. The lifeline will accept calls from non-English speaking callers. www.SuicidePreventionLifeline.org
- You may ask, “Why?” You may ask this for the rest of your life. The attempter may tell you why. It still may not make sense to you. Most loved ones affected by a suicide attempt will tell you asking the question, “Why,” is the most pointless waste of time in the long run. It is still something we all do, some of us for longer than others. More constructive questions to ask yourself when you are driving yourself mad wanting to know, “Why?” would be, “Where do we go from here?” or “What can I do now?” No matter what answer you get to the question, “Why?” you may still always ask, “Why?”
- You may want, or fell you deserve or need, an apology from the suicide attempter. Do not expect to receive one at this point. If you receive an apology it will be after the attempter has time to heal and process how their actions may have affected those who love them. Right now they may just be focused on themselves.
What You Need To Do
- Buy a water bottle to carry with you non-stop and always keep it full of water. Drink from it at least every hour.
- Buy a notebook and pen. Write down everything in it. You may think you will remember what you have been told about appointments, doctors’ names, and diagnosis of the attempter but you will not.
- Call for an appointment with a therapist for you. It may be weeks before you can be seen.
- Call for a therapist appointment for all children affected by the suicide attempt. They will need to see a professional also and it may be weeks before they can be seen.
- Buy natural sleep aids and take them as prescribed. You will find you will need the help to rest well.
- Buy fresh fruits and vegetables and eat them daily. Keeping them available for you and your family is paramount. The more convenient the food, the more it will be eaten. Now is not the time to be driving though fast food establishments because of the convenience to nourish you and your family. Your body needs all the help it can get right now. Fill it up with good fuel.
- At a minimum, go for short walks. This will force you to unplug, breathe and give you a small bit of exercise. If you feel like doing more and are used to bigger work outs please do so. Consult your physician for guidelines.
- Breathe. Take long deep breaths. Your breathing patterns may be very short and shallow because of the stress and anxiety. Stopping several times a day to remember to deep breathe will help your brain and body work better.
- Talk. Talk. Talk. If the thoughts you have stay trapped in your head it will only lead to disease and isolation. Talking in the first 72 hours of a crisis has been proven to reduce the symptoms of shell shock. TALK. TALK. TALK.
- Be honest. Express your thoughts, feelings and emotions honestly. For example: Do not say you are not bothered at all by the suicide attempt if you indeed are extremely disturbed. Do not say you are torn up by the suicide attempt if you are not even fazed. Everyone deals with crisis differently. There is no right, or wrong way, but you must be honest.
- Ask for help. This is very fresh and new. Allow yourself to think of what you need. Ask others for support. It will be much easier in the long run. If you are frantic and not taking the time to ask for support or help it will set a pattern. People will think you do not need anything from them.
- Remove all means of self harm from your residence for now. There should not be access to guns, knives, medication, ropes, razors, alcohol, etc. This is not a “forever” removal but a “for now” removal. It will ease the burden on your mind of another attempt and release you from any guilt that you didn’t do all you could do to keep the attempter safe from another attempt.