Coping with Bereavement From Suicide

Information on dealing with the death of a loved one through suicide

Last updated: 10 November 2016

Losing a loved one to suicide is one of the most difficult ways to be bereaved. Suicide is often the result of severe mental health problems, which may have been diagnosed for some time, or may have gone unnoticed and untreated.

Suicide affects thousands of people every year, but it is still a taboo subject. Many people feel uncomfortable talking about mental health and suicide, and there are many misconceptions and judgmental attitudes out there. This can make coping with bereavement from suicide particularly difficult – but help is available.

The pain of suicide

The death of a loved one is always hard, but suicide can bring up even more intense emotions. If your loved one has committed suicide, you may experience the following:

  • Feeling numb or in shock. You be unable to cry or understand what is happening.
  • Feeling a sense of despair and hopelessness. Knowing that a loved one has committed suicide can make you feel the worst possible emotions. You may feel as though it is impossible to cope.
  • Being unable to sleep or sleeping restlessly. Your sleep patterns may be disrupted, especially in the early days of bereavement.
  • Feeling angry or resentful towards your loved one. You might ask how they could do this to you and why they left you.
  • Experiencing intense feelings of guilt. You might blame yourself for what happened and obsess over how you could have saved them.
  • Repeatedly questioning why they took their life. Many people bereaved by suicide feel desperate to know the reason why their loved one felt unable to go on. It can be difficult to cope with these unanswered questions.
  • Experiencing mixed emotions or frequent mood swings. You will probably feel a whole spectrum of emotions, including confusion, anger, despair, rejection and guilt. These may happen at the same time or change frequently.

Thoughts of suicide

Statistically, those bereaved by suicide are more at risk of committing suicide themselves. You may find that in the weeks and months after your loved one’s death you begin to think about harming yourself or ending your life because you cannot go on.

If you are experiencing frequent thoughts about suicide, it is vital that you talk to someone about these thoughts. Ignoring them may not make them go away. If you have recurrent thoughts of suicide, have thought about how you would do it, or have started to make plans to take your own life, seek help immediately by contacting your doctor or calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on 1-800-273-8255.

If you have hurt yourself or have taken steps to commit suicide, call 911 for urgent medical attention.

Moving towards healing

The suicide of a loved one will undoubtedly have a huge impact on your life. It may forever change how you see the world. Although the grief will always be there and be a part of you, you can still find ways of healing and experience happiness again, even if that feels impossible right now.

Here are a few ways you can help yourself cope with grief and move towards healing after your loss:

  • Find support. Having a caring support system is especially important for those bereaved by suicide. Consider having counseling or joining a specialist support group via a bereavement support organization. At the very least, make sure you have a close friend or family member who you can confide in.
  • Look after your physical health. Grief has a physical as well as emotional impact. Try to get enough sleep and eat wholesome meals to keep yourself physically healthy.
  • Keep to a routine. You may find that keeping to a daily routine offers a sense of stability and certainty at this confusing time. Even small things like going to bed at the same time can help.
  • Be kind to yourself. If you’re experiencing guilt after your loved one’s death, you may find it hard to forgive yourself. You might tell yourself that you are worthless or a bad person. Try to speak positively to yourself and be patient as you start to cope with these intense emotions.
  • Find a way to express your emotions. Everyone has a different way of doing it, but expressing your emotions can be vital to understanding and coping with grief. Bottling up intense feelings will not make them disappear. Whether it’s writing, painting, talking to a friend, or talking to a therapist, find a way to express what you are going through.
  • Find a positive way to memorialize your loved one. Coping with grief doesn’t mean forgetting your loved one. Find a way to pay tribute to them in your daily life, whether it’s through carrying a token of remembrance with you, keeping pictures of them on the wall, or lighting a candle for them.

If you need more advice on coping with grief after suicide, contact a bereavement support organization for professional help and advice.