Losing a friend or loved one through suicide
Updated: Jul 24, 2020
The feeling of shock, confusion and grief that comes after losing a loved one or friend through suicide can be overwhelming.
You may experience grief in a different manner to someone else and you have every right to feel a variety of emotions including heart ache, guilt and anger.
It can feel like you are in a deep black hole that you cannot get out of.
The grief felt after someone who dies by suicide can be quite different to the grief felt after someone dies after a long illness for example. This can make the healing process a lot more difficult and challenging.
What makes grief after suicide loss so different:
Having the need to understand ‘why’: You may have wished that you noticed the signs, made that call or text or even question how you could have acted differently. Sometimes you may find answers to all your questions while unfortunately sometimes you must come to terms with the fact that you may never have all the answers you want.
Stigma – Suicide is a topic that is very difficult to talk about when a person is experiencing loss. Finding the correct support network who can share in your loss is vital.
Mixed feelings – The emotions felt after a person dies by suicide can vary in definition, severity and stages. You may feel a deep sadness and loss, however feelings such as anger, isolation, abandonment and rejection can occur too.
Dealing with the feeling of rejection:
Thoughts of how a loved one could ever leave you and not think about you is a common emotion to experience after you lose someone by suicide. It is important to remember that a person who has died by suicide were not in the correct frame of mind or thinking clearly and rationally. Try speaking to a shared loved one about the person who has died to try and focus your thoughts more on the positive aspects of the person, sharing anecdotes and stories that make you laugh and remember them fondly.
Dealing with the feeling of guilt:
Feelings of guilt are quite common in those who mourn a person who has died by suicide. These feelings may arise from the fact that you think you could have done more to help the person who was struggling with their mental health to questioning how you didn’t notice the signs.
People die by suicide for many different reasons and no one thing or one person was the cause of that. You should never feel like you are to blame for a person’s death.
Try not to lay blame on those around you for a loved one’s death either as they are experiencing their own grief at this time and are trying to deal with their emotions in their own way.
Brace for powerful emotions*
A loved one's suicide can trigger intense emotions. For example:
Shock. 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 for missing clues about suicidal intentions.
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 consider suicide yourself.
Confusion. Many people try to make some sense out of the death, or try to understand why their loved one took his or her life. But, you'll likely always have some unanswered questions.
You might continue to experience intense reactions during the weeks and months after your loved one's suicide — including nightmares, flashbacks, difficulty concentrating, social withdrawal and loss of interest in usual activities — especially if you witnessed or discovered the suicide.
Dealing with stigma
Many people have trouble discussing suicide, and might not reach out to you. This could leave you feeling isolated or abandoned if the support you expected to receive just isn't there.
Additionally, some religions limit the rituals available to people who've died by suicide, which could also leave you feeling alone. You might also feel deprived of some of the usual tools you depended on in the past to help you cope.
Adopt healthy coping strategies
The aftermath of a loved one's suicide can be physically and emotionally exhausting. As you work through your grief, be careful to protect your own well-being.
Keep in touch. Reach out to loved ones, friends and spiritual leaders for comfort, understanding and healing. Surround yourself with people who are willing to listen when you need to talk, as well as those who'll simply offer a shoulder to lean on when you'd rather be silent.
Grieve in your own way. Do what's right for you, not necessarily someone else. There is no single "right" way to grieve. If you find it too painful to visit your loved one's gravesite or share the details of your loved one's death, wait until you're ready.
Be prepared for painful reminders. Anniversaries, holidays and other special occasions can be painful reminders of your loved one's suicide. Don't chide yourself for being sad or mournful. Instead, 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.
Consider a support group for families affected by suicide.Sharing your story with others who are experiencing the same type of grief might help you find a sense of purpose or strength. However, if you find going to these groups keeps you ruminating on your loved one's death, seek out other methods of support.
Know when to seek professional help
If you experience intense or unrelenting anguish or physical problems, ask your doctor or mental health provider for help. Seeking professional help is especially important if you think you might be depressed or you have recurring thoughts of suicide. Unresolved grief can turn into complicated grief, where painful emotions are so long lasting and severe that you have trouble resuming your own life.
Depending on the circumstances, you might benefit from individual or family therapy — either to get you through the worst of the crisis or to help you adjust to life after suicide. Short-term medication can be helpful in some cases, too.
Face the future with a sense of peace
In the aftermath of a loved one's suicide, you might feel like you can't go on or that you'll never enjoy life again.
In truth, you might always wonder why it happened — and reminders might trigger painful feelings even years later. Eventually, however, the raw intensity of your grief will fade.
Understanding the complicated legacy of suicide and how to cope with palpable grief can help you heal, while still honoring the memory of your loved one.
Supporting loved ones:
If you have experienced the trauma of losing someone by suicide remember that there will be many more people who are suffering with grief also. It can affect all friends, family members and communities when someone dies by suicide so it is essential that support is given where possible to many people.
Talk To Tom Bereavement Services:
Talk To Tom continue to pledge financial and emotional support to those bereaved through suicide. We strive to be a shoulder to those in our community suffering the loss of a loved one or friend. Our bereavement support services include care packages to families in the days following a death as well as ongoing private and group bereavement counselling programmes. To speak with us regarding any of these services please send us anemail, contact us here or call us on (0818) 303061
f you need further support remember to let us help you here at #talktotom. We can be your guide - contact us on (0818) 303061or via Whats App. To launch a chat now click here. You can find out more about our bereavement counselling here.
Other services you where you can reach someone to talk to are:
Samaritans offers a 24 hour listening service over text message, text 'Hello' to 087 260 9090 to get started (standard text messaging rates apply) or call 116 123 to talk to someone over the phone.
Childline text and instant messaging services are available from 10am - 4am every day to young people under 18, text 'Talk' to 50101 to talk to a trained counsellor by text message or call 1800 66 66 66.
Contact the Emergency Services:
If you are an immediate danger to yourself and are going through a suicidal crisis please contact the emergency services by dialling 999 or visit your nearest Emergency Department.
Source* Mayo Clinic