Surviving Suicide Loss • Rita A. Schulte, LPC

Making Your Way Beyond the Ruins

August 2021 • Paperback • 978-0-8024-2098-5

Nothing could hurt worse. But even in the darkness . . . there’s hope.

The pain of suicide loss is indescribable. It seems beyond survival. Yet with faith, perseverance, and the tools of brain science, there is a way through. It will take time. It will take struggle. But hope is real, for there are things you can do to make it to the other side.

If you are struggling with suicide loss or you need to come alongside someone who is, Rita Schulte wants to help you move forward. As a suicide loss survivor herself, she understands the pain you’re feeling because she has been there too. Rita, an experienced therapist and expert in traumatic loss, offers a science-based therapy model that also takes into account the role of human spirituality. Chapters in this book include:

  • Making Sense of the Desire to Die
  • The Mind-Body Connection
  • Unfinished Business
  • Making Peace with Ourselves
  • Facing the Dark Side
  • Children—Living Behind the Shadow
  • The Time that Remains

When it comes to suicide loss, you’ll never have all the answers. But one thing is certain: there are real pathways to help you heal—body, mind, and spirit.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rita A. Schulte is a licensed professional counselor who specializes in the treatment of mental health disorders. In 2011, she created Heartline Radio, a broadcast show that addresses cutting-edge mental health issues and provides content to educate and equip listeners in how mental health affects our culture. Rita is frequent contributor to many publications and is the author of Shattered: Finding Hope and Healing through the Losses of Life; Imposter: Gain Confidence, Eradicate Shame and Become Who God Made You to Be, and Think This Not That: Rewiring Your Brain to Eliminate Toxic Thinking. She speaks around the country on mental health-related issues. She received her B.S. in psychology and her master’s degree in counseling from Liberty University. Rita is no stranger to loss and suffering. In 2013, she lost her beloved husband to suicide and her world was decimated. She speaks candidly about this loss at her national workshops in the hope of helping others heal. Rita makes her home in the northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C.

CONTENT PREVIEW

I am no stranger to grief and loss. I have weathered my children getting struck by lightning in a parasailing accident, falling twenty stories from the sky, and being badly burned. I have had both my beloved parents die in my arms after caring for each of them in our home. I have lost dear friends and family; but the fallout from discovering my husband shot to death in our bed was unimaginable. All I kept telling everyone in those early days was, I’m not going to be able to make it through this. I will never be able to get over this!

Finding a loved one who has died by suicide adds another layer to the traumatic event. Thirty years prior to my husband’s death, Mike’s sister’s husband took his life, so suicide was not unfamiliar to our family. My sister-in-law didn’t find her husband but was tormented about his final moments and replayed images over and over in her mind. Either way, the tapes don’t stop. It’s like the mind is stuck imagining the horror of the scene.

Warring against suicide is obviously a very personal fight for me. We need to carefully assess and treat those individuals who are struggling with suicidal thoughts or behaviors, and we need to do everything we can to destigmatize mental illness. Each year we hear of celebrities and high-profile people who lose their lives to suicide. Thousands have gone before them and will follow if we don’t continue to address this issue. Suicide and opiate addiction have lowered life expectancy in the United States and the World Health Organization estimates that depression will become a leading cause of death if something isn’t done to heighten awareness and improve treatment.

Destigmatizing mental illness will do a couple things: first, it will help those who are struggling feel safe enough to actually share their struggles. Mike, as countless others do, hid his clinical issues because of one thing – shame; and the more we hide, the more shame grows. Second, talking openly and educating others and mental health issues will bring knowledge and understanding so that individuals who are struggling will not feel like second-class citizens.

This stigma unfortunately affects survivors as well. We have all become part of a group we would never have chosen – suicide loss survivor – and because others don’t know what to do or say to us, we are often left feeling isolated and alone. As we will see in a later chapter, the fallout from a death by suicide leads the survivor to experience what therapists call “complicated grief.”

Suicide is not a normal anticipated manner of death. We generally anticipate someone dying of a disease, in an accident, or of old age. Stigma surrounds suicide, so we as survivors are left to bear not only the loss and trauma, but also the mystery, the whispers, the insensitive comments, and all the questions that follow. Only, we have no concrete answers, no real explanations and no real closure.

My heart for all of us who have been left behind is that people honor the silent scream of our souls and don’t expect us to “get over it” in a few months, or even a few years. We will never get over it. We just find a place to put it, and we do that with much greater ease when people who love us are patient, present, and emotionally available for us; when they listen and don’t judge; and when they sit with us for as long as is necessary as we try to make meaning out of such a senseless tragedy.

ENDORSEMENTS

This is not just another good book about surviving a suicide. It’s actually a book about life and hope and new beginnings. Rita writes with the compassion of a survivor and the wisdom of a therapist. She doesn’t minimize the pain. She addresses the difficult issues head-on. It’s realistic and faith-affirming. I so wish that I’d had this resource when I lost a young adult son to suicide. This is a book that you will want to read more than once.
– Gary Oliver, ThM, PhD
Licensed Clinical Psychologist; Executive Director, The Center for Healthy Relationships; Professor of Psychology & Practical Theology, John Brown University

Surviving Suicide Loss is a valuable contribution to suicide literature and a gift to the survivor community. Written with wisdom and grace, the book offers solid support for those grappling with the profound grief that follows the suicide of a loved one. Schulte writes beautifully, and she has shared her story in a way that will make a difference for others who a grieving a suicide. Information and helpful suggestions, along with kindness and compassion permeate every sentence of this book. Reading it was like talking with a friend who understands suicide grief completely – because they have traveled that same journey.
– Ronnie Susan Walker MS, LCPC
Founder & Executive Director, Alliance of Hope for Suicide Loss Survivors

There is no word by itself that triggers more alarm, fear, and pain than suicide. Its impact shakes families, schools, churches, and communities. In her latest book, Surviving Suicide Loss, Rita takes us on a rare journey on how to process and work through one of life’s most difficult situations. In sharing her story, Rita helps bring clarity, comfort, and peace to those who have been deeply impacted by suicide. Rita’s words remind us that in the midst of great tragedy and loss, there is hope found in Christ.
– Dr. Tim Clinton
President of the American Association of Christian Counselors