Suicide Grief: What to Expect After A Loved One’s Suicide

A loved one’s suicide can be emotionally devastating. Everyone will have their own journey to healing and acceptance, but there are some suggested coping strategies which you may find useful.

If you have experienced the suicide of a loved one, your own emotions can seem out of control. Your grief may be heart wrenching, but you may also be consumed by guilt and thoughts such as you could have done something to prevent the death of your loved one.

Although it may seem like it, you don’t have to travel the journey of your suicide grief alone.

Brace for powerful emotions. Some of the most common emotions experienced by people suffering suicide grief include shock, disbelief and emotional numbness. You may find the death of your loved one difficult to believe. You may also experience anger at your loved one for abandoning you or direct that anger inward for missing any clues about suicidal intentions.

Guilt is another common emotion experienced by survivors of suicide. You may be playing and replaying “if only” scenarios in your mind and blaming yourself for your loved one’s death.

Despair is often experienced by those who have had a love one die by suicide. Intense sadness, loneliness and even helplessness are all sometimes experienced by those working through suicide grief.

Sometimes those left behind to grieve experience thoughts of suicide themselves, the grief can be so intense.

Other Common Symptoms of Suicide Grief

Intense reactions can be felt by those grieving for days, weeks and even months after the suicide of your loved one. Some of the emotions and feelings you may experience include nightmares, flashbacks, difficulty concentrating, loss of interest in your usual activities and withdrawal. If you witnessed the suicide or you discovered your loved one, these feelings and emotions may be even more intense.

Some Ideas Of Healthy Coping Strategies For Suicide Grief

Because the journey of grieving for a loved one can be exhausting both physically and emotionally, you should do your best to protect your own physical and emotional well being. Some ideas to help you may include:

Keep In Touch

Reach out to family, friends, spiritual leaders and loved ones for comfort and understanding. They may be able to assist you in your healing process, or be supportive in helping to you maintain physical and emotional health. It is important to include people who are willing to listen when you need to talk, as well as those who offer a supportive presence when you need to be silent. These are not necessarily the same people.

Grief is Personal

Remember that your grief journey is your own, and you should do what is right for you. Wait until you are ready to share details of your loved one’s death, wait until you are ready to visit their resting place. Do what works for you and do not rush your own grief journey. Losing a loved one to suicide is a terrible blow, and your journey is your own. Do not let others dictate when you have grieved for “long enough”.

Painful Reminders

You will experience painful reminders of your loved one. Anniversaries and special occasions can be difficult and even painful. Do not pressure yourself if you feel unhappy or you wish to mourn instead of celebrate. Do not be afraid to change the way you celebrate a festive occasion or even to suspend it until you feel ready to move on.

Setbacks Will Occur

Healing occurs at its own pace. Some days will be better than others and you may experience setbacks even years after the event. Grief and healing does not follow its own plan. Consider support groups if you are experiencing set backs consistently or you feel as though you are stuck in a rut. Sometimes sharing with others can help you feel less isolated and give you a sense of purpose. Once again, do this in your own time.

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. Keep in mind that 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.

Facing the Future

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. Your life will be different, but eventually the raw intensity of your grief will fade. The suicide grief you feel right now will start to dominate your life to a lesser degree and you may begin to gain understanding and acceptance. You may always wonder why it happened, and your questions may never be answered, but your own life can achieve a measure of peace in time.