If you have lost a patient to suicide . . .

If you have ever lost a patient (or a loved one to suicide), this is for you: 
 
“I am sorry to hear about the suicide of your patient, and am so very sorry this happened. I have some idea of what you must be going through, because it has happened to me. Patient suicide is incredibly complex and tragic. 
 
You may find yourself reviewing every last detail, thinking and rethinking every angle of the circumstances. I assure you that this thought process is typical, usual, and common. I’ve been there. 
 
As physicians, we create very high expectations for ourselves; not only in our clinical practice, but also related to how we handle outcomes—even the ones that are most difficult to navigate. Sadly, stigma around death and suicide persists in the medical profession. As physicians, we may find ourselves turning away from the reality of mortality, regardless of the circumstances under which we face it. 
 
In the wake of this tragedy, I encourage you to feel all of your feelings. I encourage you to express distress and emotional pain. I assure you that there is a supportive community of health professionals, myself included, eager to listen to you and to share their personal experiences of trauma recovery after patient suicide.
 
I also reassure you that healing is possible. Your emotions and feelings in the wake of patient suicide are not wrong, bad, or an indication of your worth as a person or as a physician. Grief is a universal response to tragedy and loss. It is only through acknowledging and feeling the pain that you may begin to heal. There will be a point in your future when you look back and see this challenging time as a catalyst for growth and evolution as your life continues to unfold.
 
You are not alone. I am here for you.”
 
Written by a psychiatrist, Elena Tuskenis, M.D., who offers free support for those who have lost a patient (or a sibling) to suicide. Let me know if you’d like to connect with her.
 

 

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