Suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States and almost 800,000 people around the world die by suicide every year. Each death leaves behind suicide loss survivors — people who have lost someone close to them in this heartbreaking way. Facing the loss of a loved one is difficult. Losing someone to suicide can add another level of pain to the grief journey.

The shock and anguish following a suicide is overwhelming. In addition to mourning the loss of your loved one, you may be struggling with conflicting emotions as you try to come to terms with how they died. You may feel guilty, upset with yourself or others for having missed clues to their intentions, or even angry at your loved one for abandoning you in this way. Compounding all this is the nagging question: Why?

In our society, there remains a stigma attached to both suicide and mental health issues that may be a contributing factor to suicide. Some religions view suicide as a sin, some people may be less sympathetic to a “self-inflicted” death, some may want to avoid the subject altogether and some might even make insensitive or hurtful comments. But there are still many people who want to help.

Surround yourself with the most caring and supportive friends and relatives. Talk about your feelings and your loved one. Share memories and remember that the way they died does not define them.

Many suicide loss survivors say that joining a suicide bereavement support group was one of the most beneficial things they did to cope. Being with others who’ve experienced a similar loss offers a special kind of support. You are free to open up about your feelings without fear of being judged because you are with people who understand. Even if you just listen, hearing from others in a similar situation can provide hope and make you feel less isolated in your grief.

Berkshire Coalition for Suicide Prevention sponsors a survivor of suicide loss support group in Pittsfield. We meet twice monthly: Once in person and once via Zoom. You can contact me directly via suicideloss@berkshirecoalition.org or visit berkshirecoalition.org/local-suicide-loss-resources to get more information and/or register to attend. This is a peer (survivor) facilitated meeting and there is no fee.

Most people experiencing grief don’t need therapy, but if you are struggling, talk to a mental health professional with experience in grief counseling. You have experienced trauma and working through it can be aided by counseling.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention offers a survivor outreach program called Healing Conversations where you can talk one-to-one with a volunteer who’s also experienced suicide loss.

Your life is forever changed by the loss of a loved one to suicide and there is no way to avoid the pain that comes with that, but you don’t have to go it alone. There is a community of people who understand and are here to support you.

If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, there is someone available to listen 24 hours a day. Call 800-273-8255 or text 741741.

Bertha Connelley, of Lee, is vice president of the Berkshire Coalition for Suicide Prevention.