Suicidal Thoughts and Depression: When Divorce Leads to Desperation

The ability to work with, spot, assess for, treat, and overcome depression and suicidal thoughts is something that is taken very seriously in my field as a licensed therapist. It is something that we are expected to retrain for periodically, and it is certainly something I’ve gotten better at through the course of my career.

Very early in my career, suicide touched my life. I worked in a well-respected rehabilitation center for addiction, and addiction and suicidality go hand in hand. But I also have personal experience with suicidal ideation.

Shadow of a person in open door, rainbow lighting, Suicidal Thoughts and Depression

What are Suicidal Thoughts?

Suicidal thoughts can stem from feelings of overwhelming emotional pain, trauma, and addiction. These thoughts can be passive, such as wishing to be dead or thinking that others would be better off without them, or active, involving specific plans to end your life.

Suicide is something that is influenced by genetics, neurobiology, life experience, trauma, and social factors. There are so many complexities that go into suicidality, including generational trauma, cultural issues, racial issues, and addiction.

How to Overcome Suicidal Thoughts and Depression After Divorce

I spent a good chunk of my thirties physically ill with a condition called cluster headaches, which are also known as suicide headaches. The pain is debilitating and chronic. I got into some dark spaces, especially since it happened after my divorce and postpartum.

There were places where it was so heavy and so hard that suicide seemed like the best option.

I have had past clients whose lives have ended by their own hands. I have counseled many spouses or parents of those who have committed suicide. This is pretty close to home for me personally and professionally, and something I certainly feel qualified to talk about.

woman with brown hair and top, sitting in front of window, holding her hands against her forehead. Are Suicidal Thoughts Selfish?

Are Suicidal Thoughts Selfish?

On a personal note, I have never seen suicide as selfish, but it’s a common thing I hear.

I can just tell you, as someone who has been suicidal, I had the opposite thinking. In those dark moments, I thought living was selfish.

I was doing everything I knew to do to be well. I was exhausting every resource. But in those darkest of dark places, I thought I would be doing less harm by dying. I thought that I would give my husband and my daughter a better shot at a better life if they did not have to deal with me in the way that they did when I was sick.

No human wants to suffer in the way that someone who is suicidal is suffering. The suffering is so real and feels so just impossible to overcome that it becomes the only option in your mind.

And so I have never seen it as selfish. I have always seen it through a lens of compassion, understanding, and a longing to bring relief where possible.

The Correlation between Antidepressants and Depression

I am a holistic provider and an integrative healer. I certainly am an advocate for pharmaceuticals in places where it is called for, and I certainly use them myself. I think Western medicine is a beautiful blessing.

We need medicine. Medicine does good. It changes the world. However, the reality of antidepressants is that they are known to also cause suicidal ideation.

That is not necessarily common knowledge. If you read through the leaflet of your antidepressant, it is going to tell you that one of the side effects is suicidal ideation.

This blog has reference material today. We don’t often reference research necessarily here, but we are going to do this today because it is a tricky topic.

As a therapist, when I have a client say that they are suicidal, my first thought is to explore the pharmaceutical route.

My knee-jerk reaction is to ask, “Are you on or have you been taking pharmaceuticals?” That is where we’re trained to go. We are trained to think, “This person is very depressed, and they need pharmaceutical support. They need a psychiatrist.”

And that’s not wrong. Except it’s not necessarily right, either. Because the data says, it’s not as preventable as we want to believe it is.

44,000 people die a year from suicide, and 15% of treated patients will still end up passing away from suicide.

When we know that there is a correlation between antidepressants and suicidality, it’s concerning.

We know that therapy is an essential element of treating someone with mental illness or depression, but we also know that therapy alone is not enough.

We know that many people who are on pharmaceuticals and go to therapy still don’t resolve their suicidal thoughts or impulses. So what are we missing?

Woman sitting on a hill with city view. Checklist to Deal with Suicidal Thoughts and Depressions After Divorce

Checklist to Deal with Suicidal Thoughts and Depressions After Divorce

In my experience, if I, someone I loved, or a patient was experiencing suicidal thoughts, this is the checklist that I would want to go through. But as a caveat, this isn’t an exhaustive checklist, as there are other sociocultural elements to consider.

Egg broken in hundreds of pieces. Predisposed to suicide

#1 Check if You Have a Predisposition

Psychology would say that there is a personality organization that’s predisposed to suicide, which means there are certain characteristics that predispose someone to suicidality. A geneticist would say that there are certain genetic predisposing factors. A homeopath would say that certain miasmatic presentations would predispose someone to suicide.

Can you see that dark, twisty thread through either yourself or the person that you love who is predisposed to suicide? If there’s a predisposition, it gets trickier.

Interestingly, the people who are predisposed to suicidality tend to be in violent professions like the military or law enforcement, which are also professions that tend to have a lot of professional trauma.

This predisposition also tends to have correlations with addiction. So, these dark, twisty pieces make it more complex to treat.

#2 Avoiding the Wrong Medical Locations & Medical Care

Folks who are suicidal avoid medical care. Why? Because if you go to a hospital, a doctor, or a psychiatrist and you admit to being suicidal, you have a good chance of them wanting to put you in a white room.

Being hospitalized when you are suicidal can be its own traumatic experience.

These places can be very scary. It is hard to get effectively treated for suicidal thoughts because a person feels like they will be exiled.

Woman with short dark hair, face turned to the side, in pink blouse. Suicidal Thoughts and Depression

#3 Recognize Shame

Shame is a risk factor for suicide. A tendency to feel toxic amounts of shame is a risk factor for not getting medical help for suicidal thoughts. But how can we women bridge that gap? How can we find providers?

I believe that someone who is having suicidal thoughts needs to be medically evaluated and have labs drawn. Is there a vitamin deficiency? Is there some active infection going on? Are there high inflammatory markers? Are there some neurological considerations?

I think that’s an essential aspect of stabilizing someone who’s dealing with suicidal thoughts.

#4 Find the Right Medical Providers

Finding the right medical provider is important.

I want you to go to providers who have a track record of being sensitive and having good bedside manners.

You need a whole case manager to work with you because it’s so complicated, and there are so many boxes to check. A good medical provider with a good evaluation can help create stabilization.

#5 Stabilize Chronic Pain

The next thing might sound like a weird thing to consider when someone is suicidal, but chiropractic evaluation is such a valuable piece of stabilizing someone who is suicidal. Why is that?

Chronic pain is a contributor to suicide because it wears on a person over time. But also, when the atlas, which is the very first cervical bone in the spine, is not seated correctly, it can contribute to panic, dissociation, anxiety disorders, and depression.

The spine and the nervous system are partners. Chiropractors reduce inflammation and improve nervous system communication and health. So, for someone who is suicidal on my caseload, one of the very first things I recommend exploring is chiropractic evaluation.

But I’m aware that there are a lot of people out there who have had spinal surgeries, accidents, or things that disqualify them from chiropractic.

Women with long blonde curly hair and white blouse, in yoga pose, sitting in a room full of green plants in front of a window. Find a Spiritual Mentor

#6 Find a Spiritual Mentor

There is so much research and data that goes into how people who have faith have less inflammation and more positive outcomes. Having a relationship with a higher power or having spiritual mentorship helps people be well. Do you or your loved one have or need a spiritual mentor?

That could be a pastor, a coach, a yogi, a meditative instructor, a twelve-step sponsor – any sort of spiritual mentor who can help you tap into your spiritual self and cultivate a relationship with a higher power because it helps create stabilization in the system.

We know that we are not just physical beings, we are spiritual beings having a physical experience.

Understanding our spiritual selves and our physical bodies can help us move through and grow through painful times better than someone who doesn’t use that resource.

#7 Do Trauma Work

Someone who’s predisposed to suicidality is also more likely to experience trauma and depression after divorce.

When we women do trauma work—whether that’s through EMDR, brain spotting, or EFT tapping – any trauma processing for stabilization can be very effective.

Internal Family Systems (IFS)

Internal Family Systems (IFS) explores our psyche through the lens of internal parts shaped by trauma. It offers insight into how these parts interact to shape our behaviors, giving us deeper self-understanding.

Now, internal family systems have something called a firefighter part, when this system has been in fight, flight, or freeze for too long and can no longer function optimally. Very often, a firefighter part will say, “I know what to do, let’s get out of here. Let’s end this and it will solve the pain.”

There’s an app called IFS Guide that can be a layperson’s entry into understanding parts work.

Any of us just at home can download this app and start to understand that when those suicidal thoughts come up, it’s an effort to overcome or resolve internal pain that has not yet been processed any other way.

There are also specialized IFS therapists out there who can walk you through this.

Pink sofa in front of pink wall, next to teal wall. Attachment Trauma

Attachment Trauma

Understanding attachment style can be a way to process trauma after divorce and to create stabilization for someone who experienced suicidality, whether that’s you or someone you love.

Trauma and Addiction

Very often, the first thing we have to do is stabilize any addiction, and that is one of the trickiest places to successfully engage in suicidal prevention.

When there is someone who is actively addicted, and they are not ready to work on that, there is a much higher likelihood of active suicidality, and that can feel like an impossible burden to bear.

But at some point, you have to let yourself off the hook. If you have supported your loved one getting stabilized from addiction and they are not willing or not able to maintain recovery, you cannot take that on.

I have worked for many years in addiction recovery, and there have been times when someone has just seemingly not been able to get or stay sober. The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous refers to this individual as someone who is “constitutionally incapable of honesty.” For those people, suicide feels like a relief. And who am I to judge?

If you are someone who has had a spouse who is suicidal, or you are someone who has experienced suicidality, this is where teamwork is so essential.

You must have a robust support system because you cannot be alone with this tricky, complex, heavy subject.

There are so many providers out there who specialize in addiction recovery, and that is so valuable. So, if you have a loved one who battles with addiction, seeing a specialist is an excellent idea.

Functional Medicine

Functional medicine and homeopathy are two different things that work to complement one another, but they are very different. And what are their differences?

Pink wildflowers. What is Functional Medicine?

What is Functional Medicine?

Functional medicine is a type of healthcare that looks at the root causes of illness rather than just treating the symptoms. It’s all about understanding the unique mix of genetics, lifestyle, and environment that shape each person’s health.

Hormones

Functional medicine can provide the body with a lot of the nutrients and holistic support that it needs to stabilize, whether that is using herbs for mood support or hormone replacement therapy for hormone support. Having bottomed-out hormones can contribute to suicidality. Functional medicine can often take a look at the body-mind-spirit as a holistic being and say, “Where does this body need support to reduce inflammation and create greater balance?”

Gut Health

Gut health is a massive contributor to stabilizing suicidality because we create so many neurotransmitters in our gut.

If we don’t have good gut health, how can we have good brain health?

Homeopathy

Homeopathy acknowledges that there is a predisposing factor to suicidality—a miasmatic lens.

Homeopathy says, “Not only are there remedies specifically to treat and cure suicidality, but we see the cause of it as being this predisposing factor.”

Homeopathy can look at how this person is experiencing their suicidal thoughts, their contributing factors, their signs, and their symptoms. It can prescribe a well-paired remedy that will help the body reach for healing to overcome depression and suicidal thoughts.

It will help unblock energy.

What is blocking the resolution of the depression? What is blocking the resolution of the pain? What is blocking the resolution of the anxiety, the panic attacks, the addiction? And what can help the body, mind, and spirit move into a place of healing? So, if you or someone you love is experiencing suicidality and you’ve not looked at homeopathy, I strongly recommend it.

We know that shame, judgment, and isolation are the petri dish in which suicidality thrives.

If you are somebody or the person you love is prone to isolation, it is so important that we do not turn away from it.

We do not turn our backs on people who are experiencing suicidal thoughts and depression because we are scared, it feels heavy, or because we don’t know what to say.

It is so important that we love those who are suffering in this way because they are the ones among us who are suffering the most.

Woman with different type and collar of sweaters building a circle with their hands. Hands touching each other. Don't be afraid to ask for help

Just Do It!

The threat of hospitalization is what keeps us in isolation when we need to be surrounded by a community of loving people who can support us.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. It’s scary to ask for help but do it anyway. Be afraid, but do it anyway.

Woman sitting on the floor, crying, window open, sunset. Suicide and Spiritual Warfare

Suicide and Spiritual Warfare

Let’s get into why we can’t pray suicidal thoughts away. I recently spoke to you about the book Trauma in the Pews, which talks about religious trauma. Often, the church says that we have to be more faithful, more prayerful, and trust that God will provide healing. There’s this misnomer that suicidality is spiritual warfare.

I can tell you that when someone is suicidal, talking about whether or not suicide is spiritual warfare is not what’s going to get them well.

Unfortunately, churches consider medical and mental illness as spiritual issues, and that is part of what causes isolation and shame-based feelings.

We need to be able to come to church and say, “Hey, I need your love. I need your prayers. I need your support. I need your meal train. I need your guidance, but I also need you to support me in going to therapy, using functional medicine and homeopathy, and doing deep trauma work.”

There are very real neurological factors to do with trauma and addiction. A spiritual approach is an essential approach, but it is not the entire approach. We are mind, we are body. We are spiritual and holistic. Because suicide is such a complex issue, our approach to it needs to be mind, body, spirit, and community-based, and we are not going to move into whole health and wellness unless we can approach it from every angle.

Community means loving each other well and not judging each other for trying things that are not popular or widely accepted in the church.

We women need to be willing to work within the gray when we are dealing with complex issues and to understand that neurobiological issues need also neurobiological solutions, community-based solutions, mental solutions, emotional solutions, physical solutions, and spiritual solutions.

If you are someone who has been afraid to try other things and felt shame because you struggle with this, your faith is seen.

Your faith is acknowledged. Your belief in your higher power is acknowledged. Your love for your higher power matters. It’s not because you’re not being faithful enough that you’re not getting well.

If I’m speaking to you today.

If you are a woman who has felt suicidal and depressed, I see you. I know you. You do not scare me. I love you so much. There are solutions, but it will take courage and time, and it will be a process.

If you have a loved one or an ex who has been suicidal, I see you, and I know how burnt out you feel as a caregiver. I know how guilty you feel for letting this person go.

Woman with blonde hair and white blouse, sitting in front of window. Suicidal Thoughts and Depression, Risk of Suicide After Divorce

The Risk of Suicide After Divorce

Some data says the risk for suicide goes up in the first year after divorce, and it persists for five years. There is some data that the suicide risk is higher for women who divorce after shorter marriages.

The risk of experiencing suicidal thoughts increases in the first year for all people who have gone through divorce.

But it is not common or popular to talk about that.
Let this be a safe place for you where we can talk about it, where we recognize that you are not alone and that it is that you deserve love and belonging.

Love and belonging are two powerful solutions to resolving your pain.

If you have any questions or follow-ups about how to deal with and overcome depression and suicidal thoughts, please do not hesitate to reach out to me.

I’m happy to help you source referrals in your area or trusted professionals who can help you tackle this. That’s what I am here for, as a resource for you.

Divorce recovery coach Dawn Wiggins

...helps people crack open. Challenging the status quo, she integrates multiple modalities from EMDR to EFT tapping, journaling, homeopathy, and movement, embracing remedies that heal both the mind and body. Divorce recovery coach Dawn Wiggins is on a mission to deliver life-changing therapy in an accessible, scalable, affordable way and make waves in the world of mental health with the same enlightenment that happens in her office. Part science, part essential oils, pure magic.

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