Surviving suicide loss – what to expect

Suicide ripples out through families,  social circles and communities. Whether you have lost a loved one, witnessed or found them after, or witnessed the death of another, the trauma of your loss and experience will affect you in different ways.

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP): “Everyone experiences a suicide loss in their own way. There is no list of emotions that will exactly fit your experience. However, many people who have lived through the suicide of a loved one experience some combination of the following feelings and grief responses:

  • Shock
  • Denial and disbelief
  • Grief
  • Rejection and abandonment
  • Anger
  • Guilt
  • Blame and self-recrimination
  • Confusion
  • Relief
  • Betrayal
  • Shame and embarrassment
  • Isolation
  • Depression and sadness
  • Suicidal feelings
  • Yearning for the person

If you witnessed the suicide or found the body

“If you witnessed the suicide of your loved one or found the body, you are likely to experience trauma symptoms in addition to grief over the loss of your loved one,” AFSP notes. “Images of your loved one at the time of death may be burned into your memory, making it difficult to concentrate on other things. You may experience anxiety and confusion as well as physical symptoms such as chest pain, stomach or digestive problems, breathing problems, or difficulty sleeping. It is also important to know that, even when you have not been an eyewitness to the death, you may develop trauma symptoms.

“These emotional and physical reactions are normal responses to trauma and, even though it may not feel like it now, they will likely diminish in the weeks and months to come. If they do not, it is best to seek the help of a mental health professional who has experience working with people who have had traumatic experiences or losses.”

Taking care of yourself

Meeting Of Support Group Looking At Member Worried

“No matter how you choose to deal with your grief, you should not have to cope with your loss alone; be open to letting people help you live through this experience.

“It may seem as if life will never feel normal again, as if you will not survive this, but you will. Be kind and patient with yourself, and find support — from other suicide loss survivors through AFSP’s Healing Conversations, by going to a support group, by seeing a therapist or counselor, or by attending an International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day event.”

For more information on taking care of yourself as a suicide loss survivor visit AFSP here.

You might be interested in other articles in News and Research.

Published by Tim Rowden

The Grief Project is dedicated to sharing the stories of suicide loss survivors as well as information and research on suicide, mental health, advocacy and prevention. I’m a suicide loss survivor, husband, father, writer and journalist, with 33 years experience as a reporter and editor. I believe sharing our stories can help help others who are struggling, whether they are loss survivors or struggling with depression or other mental health issues. We honor them and honor our loved ones by sharing our stories.

One thought on “Surviving suicide loss – what to expect

  1. I loved the resources that you’ve posted and is helpful for someone like my going through a loss by suicide. Thank you, i republished your post on my page to spread the resources!


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