Grieving Process for Survivors of Suicide - Coping with Suicide Loss Grief
The grieving process for the family and friends (survivors) of someone who dies by suicide is complex and complicated. As with any sudden death, it is completely unexpected and there is not time to say goodbye. The fact that the individual took their own life increases the range of emotion and the intensity of the grieving process. Most people initially feel shock and numbness, which is part of the grieving process. It is important to recognize that grieving is a very individual process and different people grieve in different ways and at different times. Religious and cultural beliefs may also impact the grieving process.
While the grief and loss may be most intense immediately following the death, it should be expected that the grieving process will continue for an extended period of time. Combined with stigma and the secrecy typically associated with suicide, the physical and emotional toll it can take on a survivor is enormous. The grief process for a survivor of a suicide is measured in months and years rather than days and weeks. A few other key points to remember are:
- Be non-judgmental and gentle with each other. We all grieve in different ways.
- Don’t blame anyone (including yourself) for the individual’s death.
- The grieving process takes months and years (not days and weeks).
- Severe grief can sometimes cause depression. Check with your doctor or primary care provider if the severity of the grief/depression lingers.
- Accept the help and support of family and friends. Ask for help if you are having difficulty coping.
- Be your brother/sister’s keeper and watch out for who is not doing well and who may need additional support (make sure they get it).
- Take any threat of suicide (even joking statements or comments like “I wish I were dead”) seriously and get the person help (see Warning Signs for more information).
- If you are having thoughts of harming or killing yourself, tell someone and ask for help.
- Do not memorialize the person by only talking about all the positive things about them without also acknowledging that they were ill or made a very bad decision in taking their own life.
- Anticipate birthdays, holidays and anniversary dates and realize these will be times when you can benefit from extra supports.