Grief is a universal experience, but grieving someone who has taken their own life comes with its own unique set of emotions and challenges.
Before we get into the grieving process, let’s take a moment to understand suicide itself. Suicide is a profoundly tragic event that happens when someone feels overwhelmed by emotional pain and sees no way out. It’s a complex issue involving mental health, life circumstances, and a sense of hopelessness. Recognizing these factors helps us approach our grief with empathy for our loved one’s pain.
First and foremost, let’s break the stigma surrounding mental health and suicide. Mental illness is just that—an illness, not a character flaw. This shift in perspective can help reduce feelings of guilt and shame for survivors.
Educating ourselves about the warning signs of suicide is important. Identifying signs like withdrawal, talk of death, or sudden mood shifts can enable us to offer help and support to our loved ones in need.
Grief is a roller coaster of emotions, and when suicide is the cause, those emotions can become even more intense. Here are some of the common feelings survivors may experience:
Learning about a loved one’s suicide often leaves us in shock and disbelief. It’s hard to grasp that someone we deeply cared about chose to end their own life.
Survivors often wrestle with guilt and self-blame. We may wonder if we could have done something differently to prevent this tragedy. It’s important to recognize that suicide is complex, and blaming ourselves entirely is rarely accurate or fair.
Feelings of anger and confusion are common too. We might feel anger towards the person who left us or confusion about the reasons behind their actions. Survivors may feel angry at the world for allowing such pain to happen or for failing to provide adequate mental health support.
The stigma surrounding suicide can lead us to feel ashamed and isolated. We might hesitate to share our loss, fearing judgment or awkward conversations. This isolation can intensify our grief.
Profound sadness is at the core of grief. Losing a loved one to suicide can lead to deep sorrow that can feel never-ending like this sadness will never fade or that you will never find joy again. The future may seem bleak and uncertain.
Coping with suicide grief is incredibly challenging, but there are strategies and resources to help us navigate this journey.
One of the most crucial steps is seeking professional support. Therapists, counselors, and support groups specializing in grief and suicide can offer guidance and a safe space to express our emotions.
Lean on your support network—friends and family who are understanding and empathetic. Open and honest communication can ease the burden of grief. You may also try to speak with peers or other’s who can relate.
Samaritans offers suicide loss survivors nonjudgmental listening and peer support. The provide many programs to support survivors in their grieving both in person and virtually.
Take care of yourself physically and emotionally. Self-care practices like exercise, meditation, and journaling can help manage stress and emotions. Remember to be compassionate with yourself; healing takes time.
Understanding suicide and mental health issues can reduce confusion and guilt. Consider reading books, attending workshops, or seeking information from reliable sources.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention helps you learn facts, read real stories, get help, etc. and is a great resource in educating yourself on the topic.
Creating a meaningful tribute to your loved one is an important part of healing. Here are some ways to do that:
A memorial service provides an opportunity for family and friends to remember and celebrate the life of the person we lost. It can also raise awareness about mental health and suicide prevention.
Compile photographs, letters, and mementos to create a memory book or scrapbook dedicated to your loved one. This tangible reminder can help keep their memory alive.
Supporting a mental health or suicide prevention cause in your loved one’s name can be a meaningful way to honor their memory and contribute to positive change.
The Jed Foundation is a nonprofit that protects emotional health and prevents suicide for our nation’s teens and young adults, giving them the skills and support they need to thrive today and tomorrow. Specifically, this portion of their page provides ways to support a cause, “I want to help”.
When you’re ready, sharing your loved one’s story can help raise awareness about suicide and mental health issues. Your story may resonate with others and offer hope or support for them, as well as yourself.
Finding meaning after a suicide is a complex journey, but it’s possible to find acceptance and purpose even amid the pain.
Accept that you can’t change the past or the circumstances that led to your loved one’s suicide. Acceptance doesn’t mean condoning their actions but coming to terms with the reality of the situation.
As you journey through grief, you may discover meaning and purpose in various ways. Some survivors find meaning in advocating for mental health awareness, volunteering, or helping others who are struggling.
Healing involves moving forward and embracing your own life. While the pain of loss may always be with you, you can also find joy, love, and fulfillment in your life moving forward. Before you can fully embrace your own life, it’s important to acknowledge and accept the pain of your loss. This takes time and that is okay! As you move through the healing process, you may discover new sources of meaning in your life and gain more connections. Take these an use it to embrace yourself and everything around you!
Grieving someone who has died by suicide is a deeply painful and complex journey, but it’s a journey that can lead to healing and growth. By breaking the stigma surrounding mental health and suicide, seeking professional help, and finding ways to memorialize and honor our loved ones, we can navigate the storm of grief with resilience.
Remember that you’re not alone in your grief, and there’s support available to help you through this challenging time. With time, self-compassion, and the support of others, it’s possible to find meaning and acceptance in the aftermath of a suicide loss.