Coping when someone dies by suicide | Cruse Bereavement Care

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When someone close dies by suicide, the grieving process can be more complex and difficult to resolve.

You are likely to experience a wide range of emotions, which can include confusion, anger, guilt, shame and feelings of isolation.

Grief when someone dies by suicide

In many ways the grief experienced after someone dies by suicide is similar to that felt after any sudden, unexpected or traumatic death. But the feelings may be amplified in the case of a suicide. 
Many people say that suicide can make the following feelings and experiences particularly intense.

Anger: you might feel angry with the person who died for leaving you or not accepting help, or with others for not doing more to help them.

Guilt: Overwhelming guilt is common after someone dies by suicide. You might feel very guilty for things you did or did not do or did or did not say. It isn’t something that can just be helped by people reminding you or all the things you did for the person who died.

Questioning ‘why?’ and ‘what if?’: It can be very difficult not to torture yourself with questions about why the person chose to do what they did, or whether it could have been prevented in some way. Last conversations can play over and over in your head. It can be difficult to come to terms with questions that could only be answered by the person who has died.

Rejection: You may feel that the person who died rejected you or your help, or that your love and care was ignored by them. Feeling that you were not enough can be very painful. 

Stigma: People sometimes find it very difficult to deal with others’ bereavements. In the case of a suicide people can feel even more worried about doing or saying the wrong thing, and therefore seeming to ignore you. People often say they feel judged and that they are not getting the same sympathy they would if the person had died of cancer or in an accident. 

For other effects see our articles:

Feelings after someone dies
Physical effects of grief and bereavement

What might help

Expressing your feelings and thoughts – talking about how you feel or writing down your thoughts and feelings.
Making opportunities to remember – looking at pictures, visiting meaningful places, talking, writing, creating a memory box, etc.
Developing ‘rituals’ – creating  lasting memorials or acts such as lighting a candle at a certain time each week.
Participating in activities – when you are strong enough, going back to activities and pastimes you enjoy.
Looking after yourself – eating as well as you can, and getting enough rest.
Spending time outside – sometimes just a walk can help.

What might not help

Avoiding talking about what has happened – it can be hard to start but talking with someone you trust can really make a difference.
Drinking more or taking drugs – it can be tempting to blot out what has happened but it can also make you feel worse afterwards.
Taking risks – if you are feeling that there is little point in life then you can find yourself taking risks with your own health or safety. Try to talk to someone if you feel like this.
Not seeking help – it can be hard to ask for help, sometimes people feel they don’t deserve it or shouldn’t need it. But it is important to reach out and talk to someone, be it friends and family, your doctor, Cruse or other organisations who can help.

Read more

Read more about what might and might not help, and find a wealth of information and sources of help and support in Help is at Hand. There is also a Help is at Hand Wales guide and a version available in Cymraeg.

Further help

Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide (SoBS) is a self-help organisation which exists to meet the needs and break the isolation of those bereaved by the suicide of a close relative or friend. SoBS have an online forum. This is an online community that offers peer-to-peer support for survivors of bereavement by suicide. 

The Samaritans can help if you are struggling with your feelings. Call 116 123 24.

The Support After Suicide Partnership (SASP) is the UK’s national hub for organisations and individuals working across the UK to support people who have been bereaved or affected by suicide.

How can Cruse help?