Grief after a suicide
After a suicide, people feel a wide range of emotions such as shock, anger and guilt. We offer advice on some of the feelings you may have and to help you understand what you are feeling.
They weren't that kind of person
Suicide is almost never the result of a sudden impulse. People that are suicidal often suffer from long-standing problems, influences or illness. What may appear to be the cause, such as the end of a relationship or a financial disaster, may have been the last straw.
They may be convinced by everyday events that they are making the right decision in taking their life. Although they may appear to be listening to you and others, the truth is that almost nothing anyone says or does will influence how they feel. People that are suicidal often set impossibly high standards for themselves and believe they have failed by not achieving them.
Trying to understand
You will probably go over and over in your mind the details that you think led up to the suicide. If your loved one left a note, you may read it often, finding many different meanings in every word and wishing you could reply. The note reflects their state of mind when they wrote it. It doesn’t mean the thoughts and emotions they expressed in the note were always with them.
Why do I feel like this?
Most people’s reaction to suicide is disbelief that turns to anger. You might feel anger towards your loved one for causing so much pain, and for not turning to you for help. It is one of the most common emotions that people who lose someone feel.
Many people also feel guilty. For example, you may feel guilty that you didn’t see what was going to happen, or that you didn’t show more understanding. You may also feel guilty because you feel relieved because you have been under great emotional strain, particularly if threats of suicide have been made before. Talking to a trusted friend or professional counsellor may help you understand these feelings.
Other people's reaction to suicide
Most people understand that someone who takes their own life must be in a very distressed state, but not necessarily mentally ill. Some people may be judgemental. If you want to talk about what you are going through and about the person who has died, talk to a trusted friend or counsellor who will not judge.
Everyone says it was an accident
Experts believe that the rate of suicide is much higher than actual records show. A family may have many reasons why they are reluctant to accept that their loved one has taken their own life. Denying the truth makes it almost impossible to come to terms with your grief. Talk to a friend or counsellor, or write down your thoughts, even if you destroy the paper afterwards.
The way forward
However difficult it is, try to accept that you could not control the decision your loved one made. This is hard because you have to acknowledge to yourself that they chose to die. You don’t have to explain why it happened. Try to accept you will probably never fully understand.
Talking to someone you trust may help you through your grieving. You need to give yourself time to come to terms with the loss of your loved one, and for most people the pain does become easier to bear over time.
The following mental health charities can provide advice and information on suicide and mental health problems.
The Mental Heath Foundation
1 London Bridge Walk
Telephone: 020 7803 1100
Telephone: 0300 123 3393
212 Spitfire Studios
63-71 Collier Street
Telephone: 0845 123 23 20
89 Albert Embankment
Telephone: 020 7840 3188
Visit our Helpful organisations page for a list of other services such as Cruse Bereavement Care that provide advice and support for people who have experienced the death of a loved one.