How to cope with the suicide of a loved one
When someone you know dies by suicide, you’re likely to find yourself on a rollercoaster of emotions. It’s incredibly tough facing such a huge loss, but there are things you can do to help you get through it, and there are people you can turn if you’re finding coping with grief and loss to be particularly difficult.
This can help if:
someone has died by suicide and you’re not sure if what you’re feeling is okay
you want to know how to deal with the loss of a loved one
you think you may need help handling your grief.
It’s normal to feel a lot of things, all at once
When you’re coping with the suicide of a loved one, it’s normal to feel a wide range of emotions, such as:
“This can’t be happening.” Right after loss, it can be hard to accept what’s happened. You may feel numb or want to deny the truth. Shock can have a purpose: it protects you from the initial pain of the loss, helping you get through things.
“How could they do this to me?” You may feel angry with your loved one, yourself, or medical professionals who couldn’t help. It’s normal to feel angry. Try to talk it though and understand your feelings.
“Why is this happening?” You may not understand why something so tragic has happened, and that’s okay. It's hard, sometimes impossible, to comprehend why someone would choose to take their own life. It may be better to accept that you'll never fully understand, instead of forcing yourself to come up with an answer that makes sense to you. Focus your energy on accepting and coping with your feelings.
“Why didn’t I notice something was wrong?” Try not to criticise yourself about what you did or didn’t do – it’s not your fault. Feeling guilty is completely normal, because we often blame ourselves when things go wrong, but it's not something to carry around with you. Talk to someone you trust about how you feel.
“I’m too sad to do anything” Loss from suicide is traumatic; allow yourself time to grieve. If you’re feeling especially down, your reaction is normal. Remember that there isn’t a typical response to loss; grieving is as individual as the people we’ve loved.
How do I work through this?
There are things you can do to make dealing with death easier:
Accept your feelings
People experience all kinds of emotions after a death, some you might not be able to predict, but they're all valid. It’s okay to feel the things that you do.
Take care of yourself and your family
Eating well, exercising, and sleeping will help you get through each day and move forward. Taking it one day at a time and focusing on small tasks will make things easier to deal with. What may feel like an impossible situation now, will get better.
Reach out and help others deal with this loss
Sharing stories can help everyone cope, and helping others will have the benefit of making you feel better as well. Speak to the people in your life who are also grieving, or whom you can trust. Sharing your thoughts and feelings will help you feel less alone, and remind you that there are people out there who support you.
Remember and celebrate the life of your loved one
Honour your relationship in a way that feels right to you – perhaps you can plant a garden in their memory, donate to their favourite charity, or frame photos of fun times. Try and remember the best moments you shared together.
Getting professional help
It’s okay to admit that you need help. Sometimes the pain of a suicide can be too much to handle alone, and there are people who can help you. Mental health professionals are trained to help people like you deal with the grief, guilt, or anxiety associated with the death of a loved one.
You should contact a grief counsellor or professional therapist if you:
blame yourself for the loss or for failing to prevent it
feel numb and disconnected for more than a few weeks
are unable to perform your normal daily activities.
It can be hard to know where to find the right support you need. ReachOut NextStep is an anonymous online tool that recommends relevant support options based on what you want help with. Try it to learn about the support options available for you.