After a death by suicide…struggling to understand

Your loved one has committed suicide. Dying in such a manner leaves friends and families grieving in a much different way than most other forms of grieving. It may be helpful for you to understand these differences so that you are aware of the journey of healing from death by suicide, and the difficulties associated with it.

Unfortunately, many survivors of suicide suffer alone and in silence.

Because of the social stigma surrounding suicide, survivors feel the pain of the loss, yet may not know how, or where, or if, they should express it. As a result of fear and misunderstanding, survivors of suicide deaths are often left feeling abandoned at a time when they desperately need unconditional support and understanding. The feelings of grief are so intense that many survivors wonder if they will ever heal.

The healing journey is difficult, yet you can heal.

There are many things that you can do to begin the process of healing. Here are some suggestions:

  • Try to accept the intensity of your grief. Grief following a suicide is usually complex, and there are many typical reactions of emotional pain. When you least expect it, you may be overwhelmed by feelings of depression, sadness, guilt, fear, anger, and shame. With support and understanding, you can become more accepting of these responses in yourself.


  • Work towards the understanding that the suicide is not your fault. Survivors of suicide often blame themselves for this tragedy and believe they may have caused it, or neglected to do something that could have prevented it. You are not responsible for the suicide.


  • Try to accept that you may never understand why the death occurred. There are many unanswered questions that you will confront, and you may never find adequate answers. Work towards accepting this uncertainty and becoming more peaceful with not knowing “why.”


  • Don’t worry about “losing your mind” and trust that you will survive and heal. Healing from a loved one’s suicide is a difficult journey, and sometimes you may feel you are “going crazy.” Realize that you are in a deep grieving process during which such thoughts are typical, but gradually fade.


  • Be compassionate with yourself and take care of yourself. Accept your sadness and self-doubt with kindness as you would for a good friend or close family member. It’s important to drink plenty of fluids, eat nourishing meals, and get adequate rest and exercise.


  • Seek help from friends, family, and support groups. You need and deserve the support of others who will listen without judgment, and who show their understanding and compassion. Grief support groups can be especially helpful. They provide a safe place to share your sadness with others who also are in the healing process.

Provided by Gerard’s House, a grief support center for children, teenagers and their families in Santa Fe, New Mexico. For more information please contact us at (505) 424-1800 or 

This article was published in “The Grieving Heart,” written and edited by Bob Dorsett, LLC,

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