If someone you know is thinking of suicide, they can call 1-833-456-4566. If they require immediate care, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department.
When a loved one dies by suicide, your emotions can overwhelm you. There will likely be days where you are overcome with sadness and others that you feel consumed by guilt. Remember: There is no “right” way to experience these challenging thoughts and feelings. As you face life after a loved one’s suicide, using healthy coping strategies and seeking support from others will help you begin the journey to healing and acceptance.
What to expect
The grieving process is different for each person. Here are some of the ways people often react to the suicide of a loved one:
Changes in behaviour like uncontrollable crying, withdrawing socially or doing things out of character.
Emotional responses such as anger, despair and numbness.
Cognitive and physical responses including being distracted or having difficulty breathing.
It’s also important to remember that what you’re feeling is a normal part of working through grief.
Most survivors find it hard to think clearly. You may find that you cannot stop asking “Why?”
You are not to blame for the suicide of someone close to you.
Your strong feelings of sorrow, anger and guilt are normal. However, if your feelings become too much, seek support from a loved one or talk to a mental health professional.
Let others help you
You don’t need to go through the grieving process alone. Look to family, friends and community resources for support. They can help you make arrangements and important decisions. They can take your mind off your grief, even temporarily. They can be there to simply listen.
One challenge you will face is telling others about the suicide. It may be difficult to speak openly about suicide, but it is important to tell family and friends the truth. This allows them to help each other cope with their grief while also helping you work through yours.
Create a brief statement that you repeat so you don’t have to think of what to say each time you need to tell someone. You might choose to say something like “She died by suicide and I am not ready to talk about it yet.” You do not have to disclose details to people who are not close to the family.
Children often have a lot of questions when someone in their family dies. Like many of us, they will ask “Why?” Try to keep your answers short and simple, using words that match the child’s age and development. Reassure—over and over again—that suicide is never anyone’s fault.
Go at your own pace
There is no timeline for grief. As you work through your grief, you may feel stuck. Surround yourself with a strong support network. This may include family and friends, as well as professional support, like a therapist, who can help you manage your mental health.
Remind yourself you can and will survive. There will be times when your grief is overwhelming. But you will learn how to cope and heal in a way that honours the memory of your loved one. It is hard to believe now, but one hour at a time, one day at a time, you will get through it. And as time goes on, the pain will lessen.