Grief After a Suicide

Most deaths that family and friends cope with are not traumatic deaths such as suicide. The grief reactions often are stronger and last longer when the death is unexpected or traumatic. Many grieving people have symptoms of acute stress. These are normal reactions to abnormal events. Healing from a traumatic loss can be a long, slow process.

Common Characteristics of Those Who Die by Suicide

Friends and family members often feel they could have prevented the death. Sometimes learning about common characteristics can help ease the feelings of guilt or blame.

Suicide victims often have:

  • A mood disorder such as major depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder.
  • Chronic pain or a serious illness.
  • A high sensitivity to emotional pain.
  • A strong need for control. Many people who die by suicide have an obsessive need for control.
  • Unrealistically high expectations of themselves and others.
  • Very high goals. They always push themselves to do better.
  • Fear of failure. They may think that success pleases others and failure causes people not to like them.
  • Low self-esteem. They may feel useless or like a burden to others.
  • Hopelessness. They feel that life will never get better.
  • Childhood trauma. They may have emotional conflicts, unmet needs, and poor coping skills.
  • Talent or high intelligence. Gifted people may feel that others expect more from them. They often feel different and withdraw.
  • Made other attempts disguised as reckless behavior.

Powerful Reactions

When someone gets news of a sudden loss, the body responds physically and emotionally. Here are some reactions you may feel:

  • Shock
  • Anger
  • Despair
  • Guilt
  • Confusion
  • Feelings of rejection
  • Relief
  • Stress
  • Depression
  • Panic
  • Inability to return to usual activities

Healthy Coping

After a loved one's sudden death, you may feel physical and emotionally exhausted. Be careful to protect your own well-being:

  • Have someone stay with you for some time
  • Alcohol is not the answer
  • Keep in touch with those who support you
  • Grieve in your own way
  • Don't rush yourself
  • Join a support group for those affected by traumatic loss
  • Be prepared for painful reminders
  • Don't judge yourself for being sad

Ways to Honor Your Loved One

  • Plant a tree in their memory
  • Write about your loved one
  • Ask others to contribute their favorite memories or photos and make a scrapbook
  • Take part in the activities your loved one liked
  • Participate in an awareness walk

Healing from Pain

After a loved one’s sudden death, you might feel like you can't go on or that you'll never enjoy life again. In truth, you might always wonder why it happened, and reminders might trigger painful feelings even years later.

Each of us grieves differently and it is important to have patience with yourself (and other family members) while you each walk through your grief journey. It is also important to remember that as you move on, you are not leaving your loved one behind. You will never leave the memory of them behind. With time and healing, your memories of your loved one will bring you comfort.

Know When to Get Help

  • If you have intense reactions that keep you from doing your everyday activities, think about finding a mental health therapist.
  • Professional help is especially important if you think you might be depressed or you have thoughts of harming yourself.
  • You might benefit from individual or family therapy. Either will get you through the worst of the crisis and help you adjust to life.
  • Call Essentia Health Grief Support Services at 218-786-4402 for information regarding grief support groups for children, teens, and adults.

Looking for Support?

Call Grief Support Services at 218-786-4402 for more information regarding counseling and grief support groups for children, teens, and adults.

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