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Hope and Healing after Suicide

After a Suicide: Everyone Grieves in Their Own Way

After a suicide, each person will experience grief in their own way and at their own pace. There isn’t a normal or right way to grieve, but there are some common thoughts and feelings that people have as they try to make sense of a loss.

You may experience grief through feelings of sorrow, guilt, or numbness and not know what to do. You may feel tired, weak, get headaches, or have changes in your sleep or appetite. You may also have trouble concentrating or have racing thoughts, feel distracted, or forget things. Going through grief can also be a time where you explore your spirituality through questioning and searching for meaning.

Grieving takes time

Grief doesn’t have a timeframe. Losing someone by suicide is often painful and unexpected. You may feel shock, denial, guilt, anger, shame, confusion, loneliness, and sorrow. Some days will be better than others and it’s common to have setbacks as you work through your grief.

When you have lost someone by suicide, you may feel numb and in shock for the first few weeks or longer. These feelings help protect you from the pain of what has happened. Over time, your thoughts and feelings will change as you go through your grief. Some days you will feel a lot of pain but as time passes, you will feel less pain. This pain will always be with you but you will get to a point where it no longer gets in your way.

Finding the answers

Grief is harder to deal with when a death is sudden and you don’t have a chance to say goodbye. You will likely want to try to find out why this happened. This is a painful but part of working through your grief.

You may never know “why.” Survivors of suicide often try to find one event, such as a relationship breakup, for the cause of the suicide. But in most cases, a person was in a lot of emotional pain for a long time. It’s okay to struggle with why it happened until you no longer need to know why or can accept the facts that may give you some of the answers.

As you work through your grief, you’ll slowly learn to be okay with not having the answers to all of your questions.

Later reactions

After several months, you may find that you feel more pain and emptiness when the tasks of planning a funeral and dealing with finances and legal matters are done. Friends and family may offer their sympathy less and people aren’t asking how you’re doing as often. Be ready for this to happen and get help when you need it.

Good days and bad days

You will have good days and bad days. At times, you may feel grief in sudden and unexpected ways. There may be times when coping with the loss is harder, such as on the anniversary of the death, birthdays, and holidays. You may also have stronger feelings of grief in the weeks leading up to these days.

Look after yourself

Grief takes energy. Forgive and be kind to yourself when you can’t do the things you think you should do. In the beginning, you may use all your energy just to get through the day, especially if you have to care for others, deal with other issues in your life, or make arrangements after the death.

Tips for looking after yourself

  • Make healthy decisions. At times you may find this hard to do but the more you take care of yourself, the better you’ll be able to get through each day.
  • Make time for you. Use your alone time to do something that is soothing for you, such as planning a future event, meditating, praying, writing in a journal, thinking about good times with the person you lost, allowing yourself to mourn, going for a walk, working in the garden, or going to a safe place that brings you comfort.
  • Surround yourself with people who make you feel safe and support you during your time of grief.
  • Accept help. Don’t be afraid to tell people what you need. People often don’t know what to say or do to help unless they’re told.
  • Express your feelings and give yourself time to heal. As time passes, you’ll find it’s easier to ask for help and get the support you need to keep going and take care of yourself.

This page is developed from the Hope and Healing: a Practical Guide for Survivors of Suicide booklet.

Current as of: October 17, 2018

Author: Provincial Injury Prevention Program, Alberta Health Services