Losing someone to suicide is a shocking, emotionally turbulent experience.
Those dealing with the loss of a loved one to suicide will undoubtedly experience feelings of grief, but they may also harbor a complicated mix of emotions, including anger, regret, hopelessness and confusion.
While coping with any loss is never easy, navigating this complex range of feelings can add a stressful element to an already difficult time. It can also make it challenging to begin the healing process.
As you grapple with your loss, understand that you’re not alone. And while no grief journey is the same, there are steps you can take to cope with your loss and find peace to move forward. We’ve included six suggested steps below.
Give Yourself Time
While grief has no set timeline, it may take longer to accept the loss of a loved one to suicide. Survivors often experience overwhelming feelings of shock, denial and guilt—all of which can manifest in different ways and take time to process. Many people who have lost loved ones to suicide may also experience complicated grief, an intensive form of grief that doesn’t subside over time.
Remember to give yourself grace. Navigating the grief following the loss of a loved one to suicide can take time, and there’s no limit on how long you need to heal.
Understand It’s Not Your Fault
Following a loss to suicide, many people will try to understand their loved one’s decision—an answer they may unfortunately never find. This can make survivors feel alone and regretful, wondering what they could have done to prevent it from happening.
While this feeling is natural, it’s important to remember that it’s not your fault. Many factors can lead to suicide, and there is no way of knowing what your loved one was thinking or if anything you could have done would have prevented it from happening.
Join a Support Group
While everyone’s experience is unique, you’re not alone in what you’re going through. Joining a support group can help you find comfort in others that have also lost loved ones to suicide. A support group can offer a safe environment to open up about the trauma you’ve faced, which may be difficult to do otherwise.
A support group can also offer resources or suggestions on ways to gain acceptance and move forward. Hearing recommendations from others that have experienced similar losses can help you better navigate through your grief journey.
Talk to Family and Friends
If you’re wary of joining a support group, talk to your family and friends about what you’re going through. Talking about your loss may help you find peace and can even help you relate to those experiencing the same loss.
Many people experiencing regret or shame may isolate themselves, which can make navigating the loss even more difficult. If you’re not comfortable talking about your loss, that’s okay too. Just understand that you have a support system of family and friends that are there for you when you need them.
>>>Related Resource: Bereavement resources, support groups and more
Prepare for Reminders of Your Loved One
It’s inevitable that you’ll see reminders of your lost loved one. You may drive by their house, see their surviving family members and friends, or walk in their favorite park. You may be reminded of them by a calendar date, such as their birthday or anniversary.
Knowing that you’ll experience these reminders can help you to prepare for them and identify ways to cope ahead of time. Some of these reminders may be painful, which is normal. This may last a while, but as time goes on, they may even bring about joyful memories with your loved one. Trying to associate happy memories with these reminders can help as you begin the healing process.
Practice Self Care
Following a loss, feelings of sadness and guilt can make it easy to lose sleep, stop eating or feel sick. Your loss may feel overwhelming, constantly occupying your mind. While it may seem impossible at times, it’s important to find time to care for yourself, even if it’s for a quick five or 10 minutes.
Some simple ways to care for yourself include taking a bath, going on a walk, reading a book or watching your favorite movie. Even the smallest of activities can help you relax and ease your mind—both of which are important for healing and finding acceptance.
>>>Related Resource: 5 Ways to Rebuild Your Confidence Following a Loss
Subscribe to Our Newsletter for Helpful Guidance Throughout Your Grief Journey
Every journey is different, and it’s important to remember there’s no set timeline for the grieving process. Oftentimes, the stages of grief are often unpredictable, and some days may feel better or worse than others.
To help guide you through your grief, we encourage you to subscribe to our weekly grief support newsletter, A Journey Towards Healing. Our newsletter offers grief support tips, facts to help you understand the symptoms of grief and local grief support group features.
Owner and president of our firm. Fourth generation funeral director and certified crematory operator, Jim is guided by his principles in faith, family and friends. He loves to hear feedback from our families. Proudly serving Busch families since 1986.