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Hope and Healing after Suicide

Healing after a Loved One's Suicide Death

​​​Healing does not mean forgetting. It means that the sadness and other feelings don’t get in the way of your life as much as they did in the beginning. You’ll heal and the pain will lessen.

Later reactions

Some people who have a lost a loved one to suicide feel even more pain and emptiness several months after the death. The tasks of planning the funeral and dealing with financial and legal matters have been completed. Friends and family have offered their sympathy and then needed to get back to their lives. Be ready for this and reach out for help when you need it.

Difficult days

There will be many times through the years when coping with the loss becomes more difficult, such as the anniversary of the death, birthdays, and holidays. You may feel more on edge in the weeks leading up to them.

It’ll help if you plan ahead and talk to other family members about how they want to spend the day. This gives everyone a chance to support each other and talk about their grief. Some ideas are to write a card to the deceased and place it in a significant place, or remember the deceased by going to a place that has some connection with them.

Finding the answers

You may never know the answer to “Why?” Many times, survivors mistake a triggering event, such as a relationship breakup, for the cause, when in most cases, the person was in extreme emotional or physical pain for a long time. Struggle with why it happened until you no longer need to know why or until you’re satisfied with partial answers.

As you work through your grief, you’ll slowly learn to live with questions that can’t be answered.

Beyond surviving

It’s important to know you can survive. You may not think so, but you can.

Having suicidal thoughts is common. It doesn’t mean you’ll act on those thoughts. Remember to take one moment or one day at a time. Find a good listener to share with and call someone if you need to talk.

Anger, guilt, confusion, and forgetfulness are common responses. You may feel overwhelmed by how strong your feelings are, but all your feelings are normal. It’s common to have physical reactions to your grief (e.g., headaches, loss of appetite, problems falling asleep). You’re not crazy; you’re in mourning.

You may feel angry at the person, the world, God, or yourself. It’s okay to express it. You may feel guilty for what you think you did or did not do. Forgiveness can turn your guilt to regret.

Remember, the choice was not yours. No one is the sole influence in another’s life. You can expect to have setbacks. If emotions return like a tidal wave, it may only be an unfinished piece of grief. Wear out your questions, anger, guilt, or other feelings until you can let them go. Letting go doesn’t mean forgetting. Know that you’ll never be the same again, but you can survive and even go beyond just surviving.

Try to put off major decisions. Be patient with yourself and with others who may not understand. Be aware of the pain of your family and friends. Set your own limits and learn to say no. Stay away from people who want to tell you what or how to feel.

Give yourself time to heal and don’t be afraid to cry. Tears are healing. Being willing to laugh with others and at yourself can also help you heal.

Give yourself permission to get professional help. There are support groups that can be helpful, such as Compassionate Friends or Survivors of Suicide groups. If there’s no support group close to you, ask a professional to help start one. You may also want to call on your personal faith to help you through.

Source: Beyond Surviving—Suggestions for Survivors. Iris Bolton, National Resource Center for Suicide Prevention and Aftercare, A Project of the Link Counselling Center.

Adapted from “Hope and Healing: a Practical Guide for Survivors of Suicide” booklet.

Current as of: August 18, 2016

Author: Provincial Injury Prevention Program