Suicide and Grief
When a loved one takes his or her own life, survivors are left with a complicated swirl of emotional reactions, including shock, disbelief, denial, confusion, betrayal, anger, guilt and shame. There are so many questions left unanswered. What drove him to this? Why would she throw everything away? Why would he do this to our family? How can I make sense of this? Why didn’t I do more to stop this from happening?
The search for answers can be frustrating and painful, and survivors often feel alone – misunderstood, even judged by the people around them. Below you will find a collection of common experiences and emotional reactions for survivors of suicide, as well as some coping strategies you may find helpful on your path to healing.
You may feel…
- Like nothing makes sense anymore, because you cannot understand why your loved one would take his or her life
- As if you somehow could have – or should have – prevented the suicide
- Haunted by visual images, nightmares and flashbacks, even though you did not witness the suicide
- Like you have no control over your own life
- As if your love wasn’t enough to keep your loved one here
- A sense of shame that makes you wish you could hide from the world
- Like no one understands and that friends and family members are treating you awkwardly
- A desire to hide the cause of death from others and provide an alternate explanation
- A desire to avoid places and people who remind you of your loved one
- Afraid that you will lose other friends and loved ones to suicide
- Anger and blame in many different directions – toward yourself, other family members, doctors, therapists, religious figures, or even God
- Angry with your deceased loved one for abandoning you and causing you pain
- Relieved that your loved one is no longer in pain and that you and your family are no longer burdened with worry
- Guilty for feeling anger or relief
What you can do…
- Visit the EAP website www.eap.partners.org for information on helping yourself and others through grief and loss.
- Allow yourself to process your feelings of anger and relief, remembering that these are normal and common reactions to a suicide.
- Stay connected with friends and family despite the inclination to isolate yourself.
- Remember that you still have the right to plan a meaningful funeral, ritual or memorial ceremony for your loved one, even though he or she took his own life.
- Consider some lessons your loved one may have taught you that you can apply to your own life. With the help of a mental health care provider, explore different reasons why your loved one may have made this decision.
- Seek out others who can relate to how you are feeling, through a support group, therapy group or online community, aimed specifically at survivors of homicide.
- Grieve in your own way, at your own pace. Not all survivors of suicide are the same.
- Consider active ways to remember and honor your loved one. Perhaps you would like to become an advocate for other suicide survivors, or engage with your loved one’s favorite charity or cause (e.g., fundraising through a walk or run).
Used with permission from Wendt Center for Loss and Healing www.wendtcenter.org
For more information or to discuss life transition concerns please contact Partners Employee Assistance Program at 1-866-724-4EAP.
In case of emergency, please call 911 or your local hospital emergency service.
This content was last modified on: 08/02/2017