The self inflicted death of a loved one is always accompanied by some type of grief after suicide.
Even when a death is natural and expected, it’s normal to have strong emotions about the loss of a person that you cared about. But when a loved one dies by suicide, the nature of the death adds an extra layer of tragedy to the loss.
What’s more, death by suicide is often sudden and unexpected, so it’s impossible to prepare for. Coping with the grief that comes along with a loss by suicide can be difficult, but you can get through it.
Take a look at some of the things that you need to know about how to handle grief after suicide.
Don’t Worry About the “Right” Way to Feel
Your feelings following the loss of a loved one by suicide may surprise you.
You may feel sadness, shock, or loneliness, but you might also feel anger, hurt, or confusion, maybe even experience anxiety or denial. You might even feel relieved, and you may feel guilty for some of your feelings.
What you need to know is that all of these feelings are normal. You don’t choose your feelings, and you can’t necessarily know what you’re going to feel in this situation before it happens.
You may think you know how you’d react in that situation or what you’re going to feel next, and then be completely surprised by your own reactions. But it’s important to know that your feelings, whatever they happen to be, are not wrong.
Of course, you’re responsible for how you express and act on your feelings, and it’s important to also remember that the people around you may be having very different feelings from your own and their feelings need to be respected as well.
But it’s okay to accept your own feelings, whatever they may be, and it’s okay if those feelings are not exactly what you might have expected.
There’s no one right way to react to a loved one’s suicide and no one-size-fits-all blueprint for how your grief will manifest itself.
Take Care of Your Basic Needs
Self-care is certainly important in the wake of losing a loved one to suicide, but you may not know right away exactly what sort of care you need or what will lift your spirits.
There are some things that you do know, though – you know that you need healthy food, you know that you need to rest, and you know that you need regular exercise and to practice basic hygiene.
Those things are usually obvious on an ordinary day, but when you’re struggling with grief, it’s common to forget that you need to take care of your basic needs, or just not feel up to doing it. But when you don’t know what will make you feel better, making the effort to take care of basic things, like taking a shower or eating a hot meal, might actually help.
These ordinary acts of self-care contribute quite a bit to how you feel overall, and in moments when you don’t know what else to do, at least you can feel like you’re doing something.
If you’re not up to cooking, go out to your favorite restaurant or order food in. Ask a friend to take a walk or a jog with you to help motivate yourself to get some exercise.
If you have difficulty sleeping, try turning the temperature down a degree or two – it’s often easier to sleep in a cooler room – or taking a warm bath before bed.
Be gentle with yourself and check in with yourself often to ensure that you’re meeting your own basic needs until you’re feeling better.
Talk About Your Feelings
Suicide may be better understood now than it was in the past, but it’s still somewhat of a taboo subject for many people.
Some communities are more unwilling to discuss suicide than others, but in many cases, there’s a sense of shame, stigma, or even superstition around suicide. This can lead to people who’ve experienced a loss due to suicide suffering in silence.
Needless to say, feeling unable to speak about your feelings can make it more difficult to process those feelings. Talking helps. It’s important to find a support network that allows you to openly express and work through your feelings around your loss.
Friends and family are the most obvious people you could turn to for support, but if you feel uncomfortable with that or if you find that your friends and family are unwilling or unable to talk about suicide or listen to you discuss your feelings, you could consider joining a support group for people who have experienced losses due to suicide.
It’s often very helpful to talk to people who have also experienced this type of loss and who may be feeling some of the same things that you are.
You should also consider talking to a professional counselor or therapist. It’s the job of a therapist to help people work through their feelings and develop healthy coping skills, and that’s something that almost anyone could benefit from at any time, and especially in the aftermath of a traumatic loss like a death by suicide.
It’s also a fact that exposure to suicide can sometimes trigger suicidal thoughts and behaviors in others.
If the loss of a loved one due to suicide has left you feeling emotionally fragile or considering suicide yourself, it’s very important to seek out professional help yourself. Your own health and your mental and emotional well-being are important, and you deserve to be able to process your grief and feel better.
A professional counselor or therapist can help with that.
The experience of losing a loved one to suicide can be extremely intense. You may feel like you’re on an emotional roller coaster.
But there are healthy ways to cope with your grief after suicide, and you can heal from the experience, even if it doesn’t feel like it at first.
Accepting your feelings, taking care of yourself, and reaching out for help when you need it can help you reach a better and healthier place.