Survivors of Suicide Loss

Survivors of Suicide Loss

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States, leaving many affected by the loss, such as family members, friends, colleagues, and classmates or team mates.

A “survivor of suicide” or someone who is “bereaved by suicide” is a term used for someone who has lost a friend or loved one to suicide. The grief process following a death by suicide is more complicated than that found with other kinds of death or loss. In addition to the grief experienced in “normal” death, there are often feelings of guilt, confusion, anger and fear. Seeking answers to the question “Why?” can be overwhelming for survivors of suicide.

The grief process is unique to each individual and each person must work through their grief in their own way and at their own speed. This being said, there are some feelings and experiences that have been found to be common for those dealing with a loss due to suicide. Attending a support group or talking with other survivors of suicide can be very helpful in trying to understand and process the loss. Commonly reported feelings reported include: shock, shame, anger, blame, guilt, denial, depression and fear.

It is important that survivors of suicide are able to receive support from others and to exercise self-care. Self-care activities include ensuring that survivors are focusing on their emotional needs, eating, resting, and engaging in calming activities such as going for walks, listening to music or playing with a pet.  Someone who has lost a loved one to suicide can be at higher risk for suicide themselves, and need to be monitored for suicidal thoughts as well as connected to needed supports. Most important is for the survivor to have at least one person that they feel they can talk to who will really listen to them.

Resources for survivors of suicide loss are available. The Healing After a Suicide Loss in Your Life guide is a resource available to those who have lost a love one to suicide. In addition, the Helpline Center has a packet of resource materials specific to grief recovery for survivors that is available to be mailed or handed out upon request. Click here to make a request.