Grief Surrounding Suicide
There is no right or wrong way to grieve but it can be helpful to know others who have lost someone to suicide commonly experience after the death of their loved one.
Stigma. Survivors of suicide loss often feel that they must grieve in isolation because of the stigma that still exists in our society surrounding suicide. You may feel that it is difficult to talk to others because you fear that they will judge you or your loved one.
Trauma. Suicide is a shocking event. You may feel symptoms similar to or associated with post-traumatic stress disorder such as: nightmares, intrusive thoughts, flashbacks or physical pain.
Shock/Feeling Numb. Disbelief and emotional numbness might set in. You might think that your loved one's suicide couldn't possibly be real.
Anger. You might be angry with your loved one for abandoning you or leaving you with a legacy of grief — or angry with yourself or others around you for missing clues about suicidal intentions.
“Why?” You might try to make some sense out of your loved one’s death, or try to understand they took their life. Many survivors find that they will likely always have some unanswered questions.
Guilt. You might replay "what if" and "if only" scenarios in your mind, blaming yourself for your loved one's death.
Despair. You might be gripped by sadness, loneliness or helplessness. You might have a physical collapse or even have thoughts of suicide yourself.
Feelings of rejection. You might find yourself worrying that your relationship wasn't enough to keep your loved one from dying by suicide.
Ways to Take Care of Yourself
Do what feels right to you: Don’t feel pressured to talk right away. If you choose to discuss your loss, speaking can give your friends and family the opportunity to support you in an appropriate way.
Be prepared for painful reminders. Anniversaries, holidays and other special occasions can be painful reminders of your loved one's suicide. Don't blame yourself for being sad or mournful. You might consider changing or suspending family traditions that are too painful to continue.
Don't rush yourself. Losing someone to suicide is a tremendous blow, and healing must occur at its own pace. Don't be hurried by anyone else's expectations that it's been "long enough."
Expect setbacks. Some days will be better than others, even years after the suicide — and that's OK. Healing doesn't often happen in a straight line.
Accept your feelings: Loss survivors grapple with complex feelings after the death of a loved one by suicide, such as fear, grief, shame, and anger. Be compassionate and patient with yourself.
It’s ok to cry (or not to cry). Tears relieve the brute force of hurting, enabling us to “level off” and continue living our lives. Tears are not a sign of weakness, they are our human way to express emotions of deep despair and sorrow.
It’s okay to heal. As the months pass we are slowly able to move around with less outward grieving each day. Healing does not mean that you love the person you lost less or that you are forgetting them. It is part of learning to accept death and it’s finality of the pain our loved one suffered.
It’s ok to laugh. Laughter is not a sign of “less” grief, “less” love, or of forgetting your loved one. It’s a sign that many of our thoughts and memories are happy ones and our dear one would have wanted us to laugh again. It’s okay to laugh.
Ask for help. Don’t be afraid to let your friends provide support to you, or to look for resources in your community such as counselors, co-workers, or family members.
Find a counselor. You don’t have to cope with your loss alone. You can schedule an appointment with a counselor at Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) to talk with a professional that is trained to help you through the grieving process.
Find a support group. There are support groups specifically for those who have lost a loved one to suicide.