Understanding grief and suicide

Grief in response to a suicide can be particularly intense and difficult. Suicide can raise many questions for family and friends.


At a glance
  • Grief in response to suicide can be particularly intense and complicated
  • Feelings of guilt, shame, anger, regret and blame are common
  • It's important not to expect too much of yourself or people close to you in the early stages of grief
  • There’s no wrong or right way to grieve and there’s no specific timeline for grieving
  • Don't be afraid to ask for help, it can make a real difference to you and your loved ones
  • Some people may feel shame about the cause of death and find it difficult to be open, causing feelings of isolation
  • In a family, the pain and hurt might make it difficult to communicate with one another, leading to conflict.

Some of the experiences of grief following suicide can include:

  • Feelings of unreality, numbness
  • Nightmares or intrusive thoughts
  • Feelings of guilt and failure that it wasn’t prevented
  • Blaming self or others
  • Needing to try and make sense of the death and understand why it happened
  • Feelings of rejection and abandonment
  • Anger towards the person who has taken their life
  • Feeling diminished, as if the suicide was a reflection of the quality of your relationship with the person
  • A sense of shame and stigma
  • Worry that other people will think negatively about you or your family as well as the person who died. Sometimes this can result in feelings of isolation and wanting to withdraw from others.

How can I support someone?

Any grief can be difficult to respond to, and the stigma still attached to suicide makes this even harder.

Sometimes people don’t know how to support someone who has lost a loved one to suicide. They may struggle to know what to say or do, they may feel awkward or stay away, leaving the grieving person feeling angry, abandoned, stigmatised or isolated.

People who are going through grief need compassion, recognition and validation of their experience. The best ways to provide support are by providing:

  • An opportunity for them to tell their story (sometimes over and over again)
  • A safe and non-judgemental environment
  • The opportunity to be deeply listened to and heard
  • The space for them to express their grief in their own way.

 

The content in this section was developed by Support After Suicide program of Jesuit Social Services and has been reproduced/adapted in partnership with beyondblue and Jesuit Social Services.

 

Crisis support

If you are in an emergency, or at immediate risk of harm to yourself or others, please contact emergency services on 000. Other services include:

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