If you have lost someone to suicide, the first thing you should know is that you are not alone. Each year over 44,000 people in the United States die by suicide -- the devastated family and friends they leave behind are known as "survivors." There are millions of survivors who, like you, are trying to cope with this heartbreaking loss.
Survivors often experience a wide range of grief reactions, including some or all of the following:
What Do I Do Now?
- Shock is a common immediate reaction. You may feel numb or disoriented, and may have trouble concentrating.
- Symptoms of depression, including disturbed sleep, loss of appetite, intense sadness, and lack of energy.
- Anger towards the deceased, another family member, a therapist, or yourself.
- Relief, particularly if the suicide followed a long and difficult mental illness.
- Guilt, including thinking, "If only I had...."
- These feelings usually diminish over time, as you develop your ability to cope and begin to heal.
- Some survivors struggle with what to tell other people. Although you should make whatever decision feels right to you, most survivors have found it best to simply acknowledge that their loved one died by suicide.
- You may find that it helps to reach out to family and friends. Because some people may not know what to say, you may need to take the initiative to talk about the suicide, share your feelings, and ask for their help.
- Even though it may seem difficult, maintaining contact with other people is especially important during the stress-filled months after a loved one's suicide.
- Keep in mind that each person grieves in his or her own way. Some people visit the cemetery weekly; others find it too painful to go at all.
- Each person also grieves at his or her own pace; there is no set rhythm or timeline for healing.
- Anniversaries, birthdays, and holidays may be especially difficult, so you might want to think about whether to continue old traditions or create some new ones. You may also experience unexpected waves of sadness; these are a normal part of the grieving process.
- Children experience many of the feelings of adult grief, and are particularly vulnerable to feeling abandoned and guilty. Reassure them that the death was not their fault. Listen to their questions, and try to offer honest, straightforward, age-appropriate answers.
- Some survivors find comfort in community, religious, or spiritual activities, including talking to a trusted member of the clergy.
- Be kind to yourself. When you feel ready, begin to go on with your life. Eventually starting to enjoy life again is not a betrayal of your loved one, but rather a sign that you've begun to heal.
Suicide Bereavement Support Groups
Other Online Resources for Survivors:
Survivors of Suicide Website
The Survivors of Suicide web site is an independently owned and operated web site and is in no way associated with any specific group, organization or religious affiliation.
The purpose of the Survivors Of Suicide web site is to help those who have lost a loved one to suicide resolve their grief and pain in their own personal way.
The grief that survivors of suicide experience is unique. The unanswered questions are, at times, unbearable. Hopefully, this site provides imformation that helps answer some of these questions, as well as providing a safe place for survivors and friends of survivors to share their struggle and pain and offer comfort and understanding to others who have experienced a similar loss.
For questions or more information regarding the Survivors of Suicide web site, please click here.
Books on Grief
Please visit our Lending Library open Monday - Friday 8 am - 5 pm located on the Third Floor above the Paramount Cafe 1607 Capitol Ave. #330 Cheyenne, WY 82001
Handling the Holidays
Do what you think will be comfortable for you. Remember, you can always choose to do things differently next time.
- Think about your family's holiday traditions. Consider whether you want to continue them or create some new ones.
- Remember that family members may feel differently about continuing to do things the way they've been done in the past. Try to talk openly with each other about your expectations.
- Consider whether you want to be with your family and friends for the holiday, or whether it would be more healing for you to be by yourself or go away (this year).
- Keep in mind that sometimes the anticipation of an event can be more difficult than the event itself.
- If you find it comforting to talk about your loved one, let your family and friends know that; tell them not to be afraid to mention your loved one's name.
- Some survivors find it comforting to acknowledge the birthday of their loved ones by gathering with his/her friends and family; others prefer to spend it privately.
- Some survivors have found the following ritual helpful for a variety of occasions:
Light two candles, and then blow one out. Explain that the extinguished candle represents those we've lost, while the one that continues to burn represents those of us who go on despite our loss and pain.
Simply leave the one candle burning (you can put it off to one side) for the duration of the holiday meal or event. The glowing flame acts as a quiet reminder of those who are missing.
- Above all, bear in mind that there is no "right" way to handle holidays, anniversaries, or birthdays. You and your family may decide to try several different approaches before finding one that feels best for you.
International Resources for suicide prevention and suicide survivors.