After a suicide loss

The weeks and months after losing someone to suicide can be intense and confusing. You may experience a wide range of feelings and thoughts that are difficult to understand and to manage. 

We have information and resources to help you know what to expect, process your grief and trauma in a healthy way and prepare to return to work. 

We can also help you support someone else after a suicide loss.

Supporting someone after a suicide loss

It’s okay to feel awkward with someone affected by a suicide loss. Don't let it stop you from showing support and show you care.

Support someone after a suicide loss

Grief after losing someone to suicide

Grief is a human and natural response to suicide. It’s a process that each person experiences differently.

Grief after a suicide loss can be particularly complicated. Common feelings include guilt, shame, anger, regret and blame. Some people find it difficult to tell others about the cause of death because of the stigma associated with suicide.

The intensity and complexity of grief can be affected by:

  • your relationship with the person who died
  • the circumstances surrounding their death
  • your existing coping strategies
  • your available support networks.

What does grief look like?

Grief can leave us feeling out of control and overwhelmed. We’ve listed some common thoughts, feelings and behaviours people experience.


Grief can make you:

  • withdraw from social situations and isolate yourself
  • be irritable and less tolerant of others
  • lose interest in things you usually enjoy
  • cry or be tearful.


Grief after a suicide loss can make you feel:

  • shocked, numb or disbelieving
  • sad or helpless
  • rejected or abandoned
  • distressed, anxious or fearful
  • ashamed or guilty
  • like a failure – for example, you may regret that the suicide was not prevented.


Grief can cause:

  • confusion, forgetfulness, racing mind or poor concentration
  • difficulty in making decisions
  • sense of unreality
  • repeated disturbing imagery, nightmares and intrusive thoughts
  • anger or blame towards the person who took their own life
  • restlessness.

Physical symptoms

Grief can affect your body. Physical symptoms of grief can include:

  • change in appetite
  • change in sleeping – for example, increased tiredness or insomnia
  • headaches.


Grief can cause you to:

  • question your faith or beliefs
  • search for understanding
  • feel that you’ve lost meaning or direction.

How do I recover from grief?

It's important not to expect too much of yourself in the early stages of grief. Remember:

  • there is no wrong or right way to grieve - give yourself and others permission to grieve
  • don't be afraid to ask for help if you think you’re not coping
  • there is no timeline – the grieving process can be short or long. It can look like it’s finished and then return again.

The pain and hurt can make it hard to communicate with family and friends. Try to respect each other’s coping techniques and keep talking.

Grief will eventually become less intense. You’ll have more frequent and longer periods of energy and hope. Memories will become less painful and the loved one who died will become part of life in a new way.

Activities to help with grief

Time alone to reflect

  • Spend time alone to think, remember, meditate or pray.
  • Keep a journal to record your thoughts and feelings.
  • Write notes or messages to friends and family when you need to tell your story, or to express feelings.
  • Visit the burial site or other special place.

Capture memories of your loved one

  • Make a journal, photo album or memory box with mementoes.
  • Create a memory book for family and friends to write stories, memories and messages.
  • Rearrange and store the person's belongings when you are ready to.

Reach out to others

  • Talk to a trusted friend or family member who will listen with understanding to your thoughts and feelings.
  • Attend individual counselling or a support group.

Plan coping strategies for the harder times

  • Develop a list of people and organisations to contact when the going gets tough.
  • Prioritise daily tasks - do only what is essential.
  • Use voicemail so you can choose who you’ll talk to. You might want to record a message such as, ‘Thank you for your call. I appreciate it. I’ll get back to you when I can.’

Look after yourself

  • Spend time with nature - get some fresh air by going for short walks.
  • Eat a healthy diet, frequent small amounts of nutritious, easily digested food.
  • Find distractions to give you time out from the pain.
  • Have a massage, take a bath or simply have an early night.
  • Exercise to boost your energy or to use excess adrenaline.

Overcoming grief: How my community helped me

At 20, Sandi lost her brother to suicide. Hear her talk about her experience with grief and understanding the power of connection with others.

Listen to Sandi's story

Trauma after a suicide loss

Many people grieving the loss of someone to suicide also experience trauma.

You might experience trauma if you:

  • found the person who took their life
  • have been affected by hearing the details of a friend or family member’s suicide.

What does trauma look like?

People react to trauma in different ways. Your mind and body may react to trauma immediately or over days, weeks, months or even years.

Trauma can be emotionally painful, distressing and shocking. It can result in temporary or ongoing mental and physical health concerns.

We’ve listed some common thoughts, feelings and behaviours people experience.


Trauma can make you:

  • easily startled
  • irritable or restless
  • increase your use of alcohol and drugs
  • withdraw from others and lose interest in social activities
  • avoid places or situations that remind you of the suicide.


Trauma after a suicide loss can make you feel:

  • more anxious, including having panic attacks
  • troubled or distressed when exposed to traumatic news or events
  • abandoned, isolated or powerless
  • depressed, sad or numb
  • guilty, angry, fearful or frustrated.


Trauma can cause:

  • irrational worry about others
  • recurring thoughts or dreams of the death
  • being absorbed by what’s happened, continually asking, 'Why?'
  • confused or slowed thinking
  • difficulty concentrating, remembering things or making decisions.

Physical symptoms

Trauma can affect your body. Physical symptoms of trauma can include:

  • tiredness, fatigue and changes in sleep patterns.
  • headaches or muscle aches
  • digestive problems – for example, nausea, constipation, diarrhoea or a change in appetite
  • breathing difficulties
  • heart palpitations, trembling or sudden sweating.

These reactions can be distressing but you can learn to manage them.

How do I recover from trauma?

Acknowledging you’ve experienced a traumatic event is helpful to your recovery. Give yourself time to recover, spend time alone and with others and look after your physical health.

Give yourself time to recover

You don’t have to be in control of your life straight away. Try to:

  • go back to your normal routine and return to work only when you feel you are able. See also on this page: Returning to work after a suicide loss.
  • avoid making major life decisions until you feel better. Making smaller, day-to-day decisions can help restore your sense of control and improve your confidence.
  • take care when driving, cooking or doing things that require concentration. Trauma can affect your concentration and ability to focus.

Spend time alone and with others

  • Allow yourself time to be alone to process your reactions.
  • If you’re feeling lonely, isolated or your mood is not improving, try spending time with friends or family.
  • Express your thoughts and feelings in ways that feel natural to you – talking to friends and family, writing down thoughts or listening to music.

Look after your physical health

  • Try calming activities like mindfulness, meditation or simply resting. This can help if you’re having trouble sleeping, working or getting things done.
  • Take care of your body – eat healthy, stay hydrated and go for a walk. Exercise can help burn stressful energy and calm your body.
  • Be aware of your alcohol, drugs (prescription or recreational) and caffeine consumption. These can interfere with the recovery process and cause more problems later on.

Returning to work after a suicide loss

Returning to work after you’ve lost a loved one to suicide can be difficult. It can also be an opportunity to keep occupied and return to a new kind of normality and routine.

When should I return to work?

The timing and reasons for returning to work will be different for everyone.  You might decide to return to work for financial reasons, or you might see it as a way to take a break from your grief. 

Try to ease back into work slowly and don’t expect too much from yourself. How can I prepare to return to work?

Returning to work after a suicide loss can be difficult. Co-workers may want to pass on their condolences, reminding you of your loss. You don’t have to tell them everything that’s happened. A simple, ‘Thank you’ is usually enough.

You might:

  • find it hard to concentrate and remember things
  • struggle getting back into your usual routine
  • get emotional in front of colleagues.

While you’re away from work, consider:

  • telling your manager what’s happened – give them as much information as you’re comfortable sharing
  • keeping your manager informed about what’s happening and how much time you need off
  • asking to be included in email updates while you’re away.

Before you return to work, consider:

  • meeting co-workers for lunch so you can re-connect outside of work
  • asking if you can work half-days or a shorter working week to ease your way back.

After you return to work, consider:

  • setting up regular meetings with your manager or team to discuss your limits, concerns and ask for feedback
  • encouraging your co-workers to learn more about suicide and grief so they can understand what you’re experiencing.

Know your workplace rights

Make sure you know your rights and responsibilities related to your job. Employers and employees have formal rights and responsibilities under employment, discrimination and privacy legislation.

If you're experiencing any issues in your workplace or about your role, find out more on the Fair Work Ombudsman’s website:


Resources, support groups and professional help

Resources to help you after a suicide loss include:

Join a support group to meet others who have lost someone to suicide: Support After Suicide community.

Consider seeking out professional help if you:

  • feel very distressed or that your life is significantly disrupted
  • are thinking of harming yourself or others.

To find free counselling and other support options visit Get mental health support.