The death of someone important can cause great grief and sadness whatever the cause of death. However, families bereaved through suicide also have to face additional pressures and pain. If you have been bereaved though suicide, you will probably go through the shock, deep sadness and occasional anger felt by people bereaved in other ways. At the same time, you may also have to cope with extra emotions such as guilt, shame and self-blame. You may find yourself plagued by thoughts of ‘what if’ and ‘if only’.

The feelings and emotions can be more painful and seem to last longer than with other causes of death. Because a death through suicide is one of the most painful and complicated types of bereavement families can experience, families are left asking many unanswerable questions.

Numbness, shock & disbelief

By its very nature, suicide is often untimely, unexpected and may be violent. Sometimes a death through suicide comes out of a clear blue sky to those close to the person who has died by suicide. Even if someone has said they plan to end their life or has attempted to do so before, the death will still come as a shock and it can be a long time before you can believe it is really true. However, the numbness at the beginning can protect you from feelings which may seem overpowering and may help you get through the early days when there is too much to cope with.

Guilt, anger and even relief

Guilt and anger are common reactions in bereaved people but tend to be felt more intensely and for longer by relatives and friends of people who died by suicide. You may feel guilt that you are alive and that you didn’t or, indeed, couldn’t prevent the suicide. You may be angry for being hurt like this and being left behind to cope. Some people may even feel a sense of relief, especially if there have been frequent suicide attempts or violence or if your family life has been dominated by one emotional crisis after another.

Rejection and betrayal

Family members often feel rejected by someone who has ended their life.

Shame and blame

Suicide is no longer a crime but there still seems to be a stigma associated with it. The legal framework that goes with the investigation and inquest can make families feel like they are on trial.

Trying to make sense of it

Suicide can seem like a totally meaningless act and those left behind are often desperate to understand more about why it happened. For some people, the list of questions is endless and the search for answers can become a big part of your life. Everyone connected to the person who has died will have their own beliefs about ‘why’. But all they have is their part of the picture; the person who died is the only one who knew how all the pieces of ‘why’ added up to a situation they found intolerable.

Searching for clues and answers

Only the person who dies knows how all the ‘whys’ joined with all the feelings and thoughts and all their own emotional history to make suicide seem the only choice. This search for clues and the need to make sense of the answers is probably one of the biggest challenges to face. In the end, it may be a case of accepting that there are things that will never be known. Some people find that it helps to settle on an answer they can live with, others find they can live with not knowing. Whichever way you choose, it is important at some time to end the search so that you can look forward. Although a catalyst may appear to be obvious, suicide is never the result of a single factor or event and is likely to have several inter related causes.

You can survive

Know you can survive. You may not think so, but you can.

Deal with ‘why’

Struggle with ‘why’ it happened until you no longer need to know ‘why’ or until you are satisfied with partial answers.

Overwhelming feelings are normal

Know that you may feel overwhelmed by the intensity of your feelings but remember that all your feelings are normal.

You may feel anger or guilt

Be aware you might feel angry with the person who has taken their life, with the world, with God, with yourself. It’s OK to express your anger in a safe way. It is normal to have feelings of guilt but it is important not to blame yourself for the actions of your loved one.

Find help if you have suicidal thoughts

Having suicidal thoughts is common. It does not mean that you will act on these thoughts. However, get help if these thoughts are frequent or if you are thinking of acting on them.

Tears are healing

Let yourself cry if you want to. Find a good listener and call someone if you need to talk. Give yourself time to heal. Remember to take one moment or one day at a time.

Expect setbacks

Strong emotions can return from time to time. This is normal but it’s a good idea not to make any major decisions when you’re struggling with strong emotions. Don’t be afraid to get professional help.


There is help available individual bereavement support or support groups can be helpful. If you are a person who holds a personal faith, this might help you to cope with the difficult times. Work through questions and emotions – wear out your questions, your anger, guilt or other feelings until you can let them go. Letting go doesn’t mean forgetting. You know that you will never be the same again but you can survive and even.

Share this: