#MHYALit: Seven Responses for Those Left Behind, a guest post by author Kat Colmer
Today we are honored to host author Kat Colmer as part of the #MHYALit Discussion. See all of the posts in our Mental Health in Young Adult Literature series here or by clicking on the #MHYALit tag below.
The release of Thirteen Reasons Why on Netflix earlier this year has thrust the issue of teen suicide into the mainstream. Whatever your viewpoint is on the show itself, any discussion around the issue should be encouraged, and although the main focus should remain on the prevention of teen suicide, there is another side to the conversation that is addressed less often—the effect of death by suicide of a loved one on those left behind.
The main character of The Third Kiss, a young adult paranormal romance, is very much affected and shaped by the suicide of his father. Learning to live with the loss following the suicide of a loved one is far from easy, and those left behind are in need of understanding and support to process and move forward from what may easily be one of the most traumatic events of their lives.
Jonas, the hero of The Third Kiss, reacts mainly with anger and avoidance to his father’s death by suicide. His feelings are a response to the pain he doesn’t want to feel. They deeply influence his actions to the point where he almost loses the one person that’s most important to him. His emotions are a sample of the kaleidoscope of reactions that people experience.Read on for an explanation to these, as well as other common responses to the suicide death of someone important to us:
The hallmark of grief, this emotional reaction is likely to involve a deeply personal experience of anguish, heartache and despair. Put simply, it hurts to lose someone we love. How this presents will depend on the person; there may be tears, or they may not cry at all. They may mourn openly, or they may mourn only in private. They may be a dark ball of melancholy, or a streak of agitated energy. Every one of these responses is normal.
This is overwhelmingly the most common response. What if… If only… I should have seen it… I should have said something… Guilt shouts all these scenarios loudly, underscoring the belief that a loved one needed our help and we didn’t see it, or didn’t do anything to help.
A difficult, but completely normal, reaction to the loss of someone you love ending their life. This can be anger at the person who has died: ‘So selfish! How could he do this to us?’, or anger at others: ‘Why didn’t you do something?’ In some cases, anger can turn to rage, often expressed as physical violence directed at objects.
A normal stages of grief, denial is our way of protecting ourselves. Disbelief that something so tragic has occurred is frequently expressed by those who are left behind, often describing a feeling that their loved one will ‘walk into the room any minute’ or ‘she’ll be there when I get home, on the computer like she always is.’
An unexpected loss, particularly when a loved one has chosen to leave us, rocks and shatters your world. What you assumed was solid, safe, and reliable turns out to be a lie. This is frightening, because it makes you question the reliability of all your other assumptions about life. Add this to trying to process significant events when your brain in overloaded with emotion, and the world becomes a confusing place that is difficult to untangle and trust.
Pain hurts. All these emotions are distressing to experience. Avoidance is one way we protect ourselves from discomfort. A person may avoid talking about the loss or the person or the circumstances surrounding their death, sometimes for years to come.
The wish for something different. The overwhelming longing that things had gone another way, that a different choice was made, but mostly that the one we’ve lost was still here.
These responses are not exhaustive, but are ones to look out for when supporting somebody who has lost a loved one through suicide. If you, or anyone you know, has lost someone close, make sure to seek help when feeling down. Reach out to a friend, a trusted adult, or find a health professional you feel comfortable talking to.
About The Third Kiss:
Love curses don’t exist. At least that’s what Jonas, master of the meaningless hookup, tells himself when a letter warns him he’s an Eros Guardian cursed to endure a test of true love or forever be alone. His levelheaded longtime friend Cora figures it’s a revenge prank by an ex. The way Jonas stamps each girlfriend with a weeklong use-by date, it serves him right.
But when an impulsive kiss between the two friends reveals potential for more, Cora becomes the target of the Groth Maar: demons sent to wipe out the Eros Guardian line. And suddenly the curse becomes dangerously real.
Breaking the curse means Jonas’s biggest challenge yet. Failure guarantees Cora’s death. But success may cost him his own life…and the loss of his carefully guarded heart to the one girl far too sensible to fall for him.
About the Author:
Kat Colmer is a Sydney-based Young and New Adult author who writes coming-of-age stories with humor and heart. The recipient of several writing awards, she has won the Romance Writers of Australia First Kiss contest, as well as the Romance Writers of America On the Far Side contest for her debut Young Adult Paranormal Romance.
Kat has a Master of Education in Teacher Librarianship and loves working with teens and young adults. When not writing, teaching, or reading the latest in YA fiction, Kat spends time with her husband and two children.
Thank you to PsychWriter Tamar Sloan for contributing her psychology expertise in the writing of this article. Find out more at https://psychwriter.com.au
Filed under: #MHYALit
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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