Suicide grief: Healing after a loved one's suicide
A loved one's suicide can be emotionally devastating. Use healthy coping strategies — such as seeking support — to begin the journey to healing and acceptance.By Mayo Clinic Staff
When a loved one dies by suicide, overwhelming emotions can leave you reeling. Your grief might be heart wrenching. At the same time, you might be consumed by guilt — wondering if you could have done something to prevent your loved one's death.
As you face life after a loved one's suicide, remember that you don't have to go through it alone.
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.
- Feelings of rejection. You might wonder why your relationship wasn't enough to keep your loved one from dying by suicide.
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.
Oct. 02, 2015
See more In-depth
- Young IT, et al. Suicide bereavement and complicated grief. Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience. 2012;14:177.
- Block SD. Grief and bereavement. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed March 15, 2015.
- Simon NM, Treating complicated grief. JAMA. 2013;310:416.
- Feigelman W, et al. Stigmatization and suicide bereavement. Death Studies. 2009;33: 591.
- De Groot M, et al. Course of bereavement over 8-10 years in first degree relatives and spouses of people who committed suicide: Longitudinal community based cohort study. BMJ. 2013;347:1.
- Schreiber J, et al. Suicidal ideation and behavior in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed March 15, 2015.