18 Insights to Heal the Shame of an Attempted Suicide

The shame of an attempt at suicide can cling onto you like the odour of some dirty old socks.

You would do anything to get rid of that stench. Is that a good description of shame? That feeling of embarrassment at what you have done. You want to hide, run, cover it up, but it’s still there. Those smelly old socks still stink.

Recently I was asked a question by one of the readers of Turning the Page about how to help someone who had recently attempted suicide. In the midst of their crisis, they had posted their intentions out on Social Media. Now they had a deep sense of shame and embarrassment. They feared that people would treat them differently.

So how would you help someone like this?

Here are some thoughts.

Be curious not condemning.

Too many times we are quick to offer advice. We come across as we know better. This can be easily interpreted that we are better than them. The self-worth takes yet another hit.

Instead, when we are gently curious we create a bridge between one failing human and another failing human. Communication flows and trust develops. The gentle open ended questions create a dialogue of empathy.

A lot of the time you are one or two questions away from very interesting fascinating things. But what happens is that we skip right on by it. There is a world of interesting insights and understanding just below the surface of most interactions and most people just skip right on by. Rob Bell

Empower the healing with some with insights.

In your discussion, you might like to use some of the insights listed below to prompt dialogue. You may also like to write some of them out for ongoing reference. These are ideas that encourage the mind to think through the issues.

Here are some you might like to consider using.

  1. S.H.A.M.E. is Should Have Already Mastered Everything. Do any of us ever master everything?
  2. If I keep ‘shoulding’ all over myself, I will keep myself locked into a septic whirlpool of misery. Replace your ‘Should’ with ‘Could’ and discover the world of having options. ‘I could have done this…’
  3. Mastering requires a learning of new knowledge and wisdom. It takes a life time. Are you open to learning and becoming a master of your own life?
  4. The choices you made back are then were based on various influences that were happening at THAT time and not necessarily now. What were the influences?
  5. More knowledge and understanding of ourselves can open the door to self-forgiveness. ‘Oh, so my brain was physically unwell and I didn’t even realize it’?
  6. Everyone handles stress differently. I can learn new skills, knowledge, and wisdom that will help me when the darkness comes.
  7. There will always be dark tunnels, but it does not mean I have to leap off the train. I can get help.
  8. There is a ladder for my pit, and there is someone who can help me climb it.
  9. This despair is not permanent.
  10. Regret can be good. Rumination can be bad.
  11. We all have Mental Health and it’s a fragile thing.
  12. Be kind.[to yourself and others] for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.
  13. You don’t know what you don’t know. So it’s time to learn. You Ok with that?
  14. You can’t control what others think of you, you can only control what .you think about yourself. So speak kindness to yourself.
  15. True friends have unconditional love and respect, regardless of what you have done.
  16. Their response is their responsibility.
  17. Their response to you may tell you more about them than it does about you.
  18. They may well have their own shame and guilt issues going on. That they didn’t intervene early enough etc.. Forgive them for they didn’t know what they were doing.

Invite questions that explore their story and help them to engage in a bigger story.

Quotes to Consider

  • Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen. Brené Brown
  • If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive. Brené Brown
  • Let the wise listen and add to their learning Proverbs 1:5

Questions to answer and leave a comment below or anonymously

  1. What role does shame have a part in your life?
  2. What would you add to the list above?
  3. What is easier. To listen and ask questions or to speak and offer advice. Why?

Barry Pearman

Image cc:Greyson Joralemon 
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2 Replies to “18 Insights to Heal the Shame of an Attempted Suicide”

  1. Shame is probably one of the feelings I find most difficult to live with. I love the idea of turning should into could.
    In the case of shame associated with a suicide attempt, I think part of the solution lays with society itself. If we could all see this shame as a problem created by a lack of understanding of Mental health issues and of conditions that prevent people communicating their mental health needs and here in the UK a lack of provision for mental healthcare. If views in society changed then the individual need not focus so much on personal shame. If there is any shame at all, it needs to be communally held.

    1. Wow, so true Sandy. Thanks for this. I think if there was less shame or a feeling of supposed ‘weakness’ about how are truly are then perhaps many of the suicides and attempts at suicide would reduce. I think of men in particular that believe they have to put up a strong persona, while strength is actually being willing to admit our supposed weak moments.

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