May 11, 2021

How to Cope with a Loved One’s Suicide

Losing someone you love to suicide is devastating and overwhelming. And sadly, the stigma around suicide can make coping with your grief even more complicated. You may struggle with processing your loss and wishing to understand the events that led up to the suicide.

We know that there’s no easy answer, nor is there just one solution when it comes to dealing with a loved one’s suicide.

But here a few healthy ways to begin your journey of healing:

Don’t let others tell you how you should feel.

When a loved one dies by suicide, those left behind grapple with intense emotions, including grief, anger, denial, confusion and guilt. You may even feel shame or relief. And the emotions you truly feel may result in even more guilt.

Keep in mind that all of your feelings at this time are valid; you’re allowed to have them, and no one should dictate which feelings are right or wrong.

Prepare for painful reminders.

It’s not just holidays, birthdays and reunions that will remind you of the passing of a loved one. Minor things can trigger memories, including the scent of their laundry detergent or perfume, their favorite song and even the time they would typically come home.

Work through these emotions; rather than viewing them as painful reminders, reframe them as precious memories. Rathe rthan focusing on the passing of your loved one, reflect on their life and remember the moments you were fortunate enough to share.

Work through the guilt.

Guilt is one of the most painful emotions experienced by those left behind. Survivor’s remorse is normal. You may blame yourself for not having paid more attention, not insisting on therapy or not keeping in touch more. However, living in regret will not help you move forward.

Focus on the present and accept that the past is now beyond your control.  

Don’t slip into isolation.

Grieving in your own way is crucial to your healing. You may choose not to see your loved one’s photos for a while or clean out their room just yet; that’s fine. However, the one thing you shouldn’t do as you struggle with your grief is to isolate yourself from family and friends.

Keeping lines of communication open is vital. If you don’t want to talk to other people who may have known your loved one because it may cause you more pain, speak to a professional or join a support group instead.

Know when it’s time to get professional help.

Taking care of yourself may not seem likea priority at this time, but unresolved regret and painful emotions can impact your mental health and well-being. If you’re having trouble regulating your emotions, experiencing sleep or appetite disruptions or aren’t performing aseffectively as you once did, consider talking to a professional.

A trained therapist can help you processyour grief and ensure you’re not putting your own mental, emotional and physical health at risk.

If you or someone you know is experiencing mental health, substance use or IDD crisis, please call 911, go toyour nearest emergency room or call 1-866-837-7521 to be connected to Communicare’s mobile crisis team, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days ayear.

You can also get help 24/7 at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling 800-273-TALK (8255). If you prefer to text, the Crisis Text Line is available at 741741.