Grief in response to a suicide can be particularly intense and difficult. It can raise many questions for family and friends.
At a glance
- Grief in response to suicide can be particularly intense and complicated.
- Some people find it difficult to be open about the cause of death but being open and honest as much as possible may help you feel less isolated.
- Feelings of guilt, shame, anger, regret and blame are very common.
- It's important not to expect too much of yourself in the early stages.
- In a family, the pain and hurt can sometimes make it difficult to communicate with one another. Conflicts can arise. It's important to communicate while at the same time having respect for the differing ways of handling things.
- There is no wrong or right way to grieve and there is no specific timeline for grieving.
- Don't be afraid to ask for help; it can make a real difference to you and your family and friends.
Some of the experiences of bereavement following suicide might include:
- a sense of unreality, numbness, nightmares and intrusive thoughts
- feelings of guilt and failure that it was not prevented
- feelings of guilt at perceived failed responsibilities
- a sense of blame
- an unrelenting need to ask why, to try and make sense of and understand why it happened
- feelings of rejection and abandonment
- anger towards the person who has suicided
- personal diminishment, that is, experiencing the suicide as a reflection of the quality of the relationship with the person
- a sense of shame and stigma, that other people will think negatively about you, your family as well as the person who died. Sometimes this can result in feeling alone and wanting to withdraw from others.
How can I support someone?
Those in the community sometimes feel unable to provide adequate support to people bereaved by suicide. They may struggle to know what to say or do. They may feel awkward or stay away leaving the bereaved feeling angry, abandoned, stigmatised and isolated.
Any grief can be difficult to respond to and discuss and the stigma still attached to suicide makes this even harder.
Suicide bereaved people need compassion, recognition and validation of their experience. In summary:
- non-judgmental support
- an opportunity to tell their story, sometimes over and over again
- a safe and supportive environment
- to be deeply listened to and heard
- to express their grief in their own way.