03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Surviving A Loved One's Suicide

Once someone you love commits suicide, you become a suicide survivor. That is what you are called. If someone you love dies of natural causes, or even in an accident, you are not called a survivor. Suicide is different.

When someone you love kills themselves, you experience something we ( in the grief world) call "complicated mourning". In other words; it is not a straight-forward grieving process as it would be when you lose your 95-year-old Grandma who dies peacefully in her sleep. Suicide was a choice. Suicide is often violent. It is also something that the person generally plans.

Just over a year ago my baby brother took his own life. He was 40. I have now become a suicide survivor and it truly sucks. The feelings are not just sadness but also anger, denial, more anger and a little guilt. I am grateful that I don't have a lot of guilt in that I do feel that I did all I could to help my brother deal with his issues. The fact that my, and the family's, input wasn't enough to turn him around is so sad.

I wish my brother could have come to his memorial before he took his life. If he could have been there to see how many people loved him, how many people were devastated at the thought of never seeing him again, and how many shattered lives he left in his wake, I have a hard time believing he would have actually gone through with it.

Over the years, as a psychotherapist, I have worked with many people who are suicide survivors. It is such a uniquely painful loss that I have always felt a bit powerless to help survivors heal. It helps some to think that we can never really know another's pain. That the person we lost was so miserable here that they didn't consider what their suicide would to do us. Or, if they did consider it, were in too much pain to let that stop them.

I am fortunate that I don't believe suicide is a sin. I don't believe that if you commit suicide you are doomed and will go to hell for eternity. If you were in enough pain to end your life, I think you lived your hell right here. You get a free pass to heaven.

I have missed my brother everyday since he died. I think I will always miss him.

If you'd like to make contact with Irene, you can find her here.