Counseling & Wellness Services (CWS)

Coping with Suicide Loss

Coping with the feelings of grief and loss following a completed suicide is difficult, and often complicated. Survivors often feel shocked/numb, guilty, sad, and/or angry.

Survivors of suicide may also experience symptoms such as changes in sleep and appetite, lack of energy, and/or difficulty concentrating.

At times, some survivors struggle with what to tell other people. It is important to make whatever decision feels right to you; however many survivors have found it best to simply acknowledge that the individual died by suicide.

It is important to remember that it is common to experience any or all of these reactions.  Survivors may even experience themselves “cycling” through them – shifting between feelings of anger, disbelief, sadness, and guilt.  There are moments when those feelings will feel more intense and prevalent; and other moments when they’re less noticeable. This process is quite natural.

Perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of coping with a loss by suicide is the struggle with wondering “why.” People often replay events from the past, searching for clues or a possible answer to this question. Survivors may also feel somehow to blame for what happened. The most important thing for survivors to remember is that it is not their fault.

Here are some tips for survivors to cope with a completed suicide:

  • Reach out to family and friends for support and a sense of connection with others. It may seem difficult to reach out and maintain contact during stressful times, however, this is especially important when stress is very high.
  • Find people with whom you feel comfortable talking about what happened
  • Grieving is a very personal process – do what feels healthy and right for you. There is no right way to grieve; there is no timeline for grief.
  • Recognize that birthdays, holidays, anniversaries may be especially difficult – think ahead of time how you may handle those situations
  • Respect your needs – you may need to talk about things at one time and prefer to be alone or distract yourself at other times
  • Practice good self-care – get plenty of sleep, eat well, remain active
  • Be patient – the process of healing from your grief takes time
  • Children experience many of the feelings of adult grief, and are particularly vulnerable to feeling abandoned and guilty. Reassure them that the death was not their fault. Listen to their questions, and try to offer honest, straightforward, age-appropriate answers.
  • Some survivors find comfort in community, religious, or spiritual activities, including talking to a trusted member of the clergy.
  • Be kind to yourself. When you feel ready, begin to go on with your life. Eventually starting to enjoy life again is not a betrayal of your loved one, but rather a sign that you've begun to heal.

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