Frozen Feelings: Denial in Grief

Susan Titus Osborn:

For some who have lost a child to suicide, denial in grief occurs.

It can be a struggle to cope initially with the reality of such a tragic death.




Excerpt taken from Too Soon to Say Goodbye: Healing and Hope for Suicide Victims and Survivors and used with permission by New Hope Publishers.


“Sarah committed suicide. We are having the funeral service at a church near your house. I hope you can come.”

The voice on the answering machine sounded mechanical, void of feeling. My heart went out to my friend, Ann. I could not even imagine what she was going through.

Although Ann’s daughter, Sarah, lived half an hour from our home, we hadn’t seen her since our wedding nine years before. She was pregnant at the time, and I suddenly realized she was leaving a nine-year-old daughter behind. We had tried to get together with her and her husband, Hiro, but they never seemed available.

When I asked Ann how her daughter had died, she replied, “I don’t know. I don’t want to know!” Ann’s family were committed Christians, but their adopted daughter, Sarah, who was Korean, had adamantly stated, “I have no use for the white man’s God.”

I thought of her words as I stood over the open casket, staring at the body of the 30-year-old woman who had committed suicide. She looked so young. I saw cuts on the edges of her wrists; her hands were folded in front of her. I drew the conclusion that she must have slit her wrists on that fateful Saturday night, but none of us will ever know for sure….

After the funeral, Ann said, “We are leaving tomorrow for Hawaii.” I stared at her in disbelief. She continued, “We already had plans to go there, and I don’t see any reason to change them.”

I continued to stand there speechless, but my mind screamed, Don’t you want to know how your daughter died? What if her husband played a part in it? Don’t you want to greet his parents when they arrive tomorrow from Japan? How can you just pick up and go on with your life as if nothing has happened? All these thoughts swirled in my head, but I said nothing.

I wondered how Ann would ever gain closure, and what would happen to that precious nine-year-old, who seemed to have been swept away in the current of the storm? How would she be able to deal with her mother committing suicide? Who would be there to help her?

After the loss of a loved one, it is not uncommon for a survivor to bottle up feelings and simply try to carry on, but those feelings must be dealt with eventually. It is our prayer for people like Ann, who love the one they lost, that Christ will help them deal with their grief, not by hoping it will go away, but by His walking through it with them.  But we also understand that for some, dealing with the reality of the loss of a child is so terribly painful that some need to process that on their own timetable. If you know someone who has had a suicide loss and is not dealing with it, let them know there is help available to walk them through that pain when they are ready.

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If depressed and suicidal, get help by dialing the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), a free, 24-hour hotline. IF IN IMMEDIATE DANGER of harming yourself or someone else, please call 911.1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) or (in Spanish)
1-877-SUICIDA (1-877-784-2432).
Our blog, Thinking About Suicide, offers personal stories and prayers from those who have overcome the urge to commit suicide or lost someone to suicide. We also list resources related to depression, bullying, cutting and other mental health related topics or news.
Use our SEARCH box at the top of the page to find articles on specific topics. Our authors hope to encourage you and remind you that others in situations like yours have found hope and help. We hope and pray you do too. However, we also encourage you to get local help if you are suicidal: call a counselor or the suicide prevention hotline to connect personally with someone who can help you.

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