If you are reading this, it might be because you have lost a loved one to suicide, and we are so sorry that you are going through a difficult time. Losing someone to suicide is a horrible experience to have, cope with, witness, or grieve. After this loss, you will experience a range of challenging emotions. Initial responses to someone’s suicide are shock, anger, fear, confusion, sadness, and denial. There is no right or wrong way to express the grief you feel after losing somebody you love, but there are many different ways that people cope with a difficult loss. It is important to face these feelings and allow yourself to express, rather than trying to cope by ignoring the loss and emotions that come with it.  Counseling can be a very useful setting to assist in your process.

Everyone needs time to process after a loss.  Some healthy ways of coping are writing, drawing, being physically active, seeking counseling, talking with friends and family, listening to music, or creating something to honor your loved one. Know that when struggling with the death of a loved one, it is important to practice self-care, even if it means you have to take time off from work.

Psychologist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross suggests that there are 5 stages to grieving. These stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Although all of these stages are common for most people when grieving, they are experienced and felt for different periods of time for each person. Director of After-Trauma Services at SPCS Sheila McCue, LCSW said, “We know grief to be in stages, but we don’t always go through them one by one. It’s messier than that.” Each of these stages is challenging to overcome, but they will all help you grow and make peace with your experience, even if you continue to feel pain from it. “You have to plow through all of the emotions until you become familiar with where you are and can grow in acceptance of that,” said McCue.

Coping with the loss of somebody who died by suicide can also bring up a lot of complicated feelings, one of these being regret. No matter what the circumstances are around your loved one’s suicide, know that their actions were not your fault or the fault of anybody else. It is normal to experience these feelings, or wish that you could have saved a person from taking their life or wonder about ways you could have prevented something so tragic from happening. You might think or feel as if the person who died would still be alive if you had treated them differently or showed them more love and appreciation. These can be very painful and struggling thoughts, but assure yourself that what happened is not your fault. Instead of focusing your thoughts and energy on the past, try to focus on taking care of yourself and engaging in activities that you love and are meaningful to you.

Thinking about the loss of your loved one within the context of suicide can make it harder for you to remember them in a positive way. You might feel anger or resentment towards the person who took their life. This may be because you feel alone or confused now that your loved one is gone. Perhaps it is easier for you to feel and express anger than express sadness or let yourself be impacted by this loss. Anger might feel like an inappropriate emotion to express, but expressing it can be very helpful. Allow yourself to embrace all of the emotions you feel in whatever order they arrive, no matter how difficult they are.

Suicide is not easy to talk about or face as a reality after it occurs. It is not uncommon for people to try to cover up the fact that the death of their loved one was by suicide because they don’t want to discuss something so difficult, are ashamed that the suicide happened, feel it is their responsibility, or are afraid of painting their loved one in a negative light due to the stigma surrounding suicide and mental illness. Suicide is not often broadcasted to the public or discussed in an open and appropriate manner, which might make it more difficult for you to feel comfortable approaching or starting conversations about suicide and the loss of your loved one. However, speaking about your loved one’s loss and telling your story can help you and can help to educate and inspire others around you. Find a support group close to you where you can openly discuss your loss. Suicide Prevention and Crisis Service offers a support group for those who have lost someone to suicide. In addition, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention provides lists of different support groups that meet all over the country.

Experiencing loss can be a shocking and life-altering experience for those who are left behind. While grieving the loss of a loved one, you might feel the urge to change something or some things about your life and/or yourself. Grief, and the shock, sadness, and confusion that comes with it, might lead you to question and change your thoughts about life, death, and other core aspects of your life. Give yourself the time and space you need to think things through, process what has occurred, and let yourself grow and change. It is okay if a death by suicide changes you and your life, as losing someone is a poignant life event.

Social pressure may make you feel that you should move on, get over the death, and not express or feel any kind of negative emotion after a certain and short period of time following a loss. But blocking yourself from feeling and expressing can only slow down and harm the overall healing and grieving experience. You might not ever reach a point where you can make peace with or accept the loss of your loved one, or come to a time where you no longer experience any regrets or have to face any challenging emotions regarding their suicide. For this reason, Sheila McCue suggests, “Give yourself the first thirteen months after any trauma or loss to experience all of the ‘firsts’ that your loved one will not be there for.” Healing should not be equated with forgetting, and though it may be challenging, it will be more useful to dedicate time to coping with and processing difficult emotions than trying to avoid them.

Grieving the loss of your loved one can be a very difficult journey, full of ups and downs and unexpected feelings and experiences. And while you do not deserve to suffer a loss so tragic, you do deserve to take care of yourself so that you can heal and continue your life in a satisfying and healthy way.


What to Do After Losing Someone to Suicide:

  • Make an appointment with a counselor
  • Speak with trusted friends, families, or community members who can support you
  • Find a way to honor the life of your loved one and acknowledge what they meant to you
  • Regard your own experiences, and be reasonable with how you treat yourself and others
  • Find a productive and healthy method of self-expression