Chapter 3: Trauma and grief in 2SLGBTQ+ communities
I don’t think I’ll ever forget the morning I woke up to that phone call. I just kept replaying everything that we did the night before.
As a result of ongoing discrimination and rejection, rates of suicide for 2SLGBTQ+ people are higher than in the general population in Canada. In some community groups, rates are higher; for example, trans people and Indigenous Peoples, as well as youth, are at greater risk of suicide.
Assumptions by others about the death by suicide of a 2SLGBTQ+ person can make your grief more difficult. You may feel that the person who died is misunderstood or judged, and that your grief is not truly recognized.
The circumstances surrounding a death by suicide often contribute to trauma. Not only is the death sudden, unexpected, and hard to understand, but also relationships among those left behind are often changed. There is usually emotional upheaval, and you may not be able to rely on your usual supports since they are also grieving. Other factors that can contribute to trauma after a suicide include being present when it happened or finding or handling the person’s body.
A death by suicide can bring an increased sense of vulnerability, which can contribute to thoughts of suicide. As a group, those who have experienced a loss due to suicide are at higher risk than those who are grieving other deaths, but not everyone is affected in the same way. You may be more convinced than ever that life is precious, or you may be wondering if there is any point to going on with your own life.
Roll your mouse over each of the boxes below to view some of the reasons why grieving a death by suicide can be more difficult.
… about why the person ended their life or why you didn’t realize they were thinking about it.
… about whether there was something you could have done to prevent it.
Unrecognized or unsupported grief…
… because the stigma of suicide is possibly mixed with homophobia, biphobia, or transphobia.
Fear and worry…
… for yourself or others in your community who are at risk.
What may help
- Unanswered questions often take up much of grief after suicide. While you may find some answers, you may also find new questions. Part of your grief may involve learning how to live with “not knowing.”
- Remind yourself that it likely wasn’t possible for either you or anyone else to have changed what happened, regardless of what you did or didn’t know.
- Remember that this death will affect others that you know, but not necessarily in the same way it has impacted you. You may find comfort and support from friends, family, or your community, or you may need to look for additional support elsewhere, such as from a professional counsellor.
- Resist any urge to isolate yourself in your grief. Reach out to people who are supportive and can respond to your needs. This might be your physician or a faith leader. Look for a suicide bereavement support group that is 2SLGBTQ+ inclusive. Explore both local and online resources, such as chat rooms, forums, or hotlines.
- Limit your interactions with people who make harsh judgments about the person who died, and plan for how you will respond if you encounter negative or hurtful opinions.
- In time, you may begin to shift your focus away from the person’s death to their life. Remembrances, rituals, and other ceremonies can be stressful, but they can also bring comfort, providing a chance to reminisce. This might be through looking at photographs, sharing stories with others who knew the person, or creating a memorial.
- If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, it’s critical to get professional assistance. The Canada Suicide Prevention Service is available by calling 1-833-456-4566.