Taking care of yourself
What kinds of emotions am I likely to feel in the days and weeks after a suicide loss?
Everyone experiences a suicide loss in their own way, so there is no list of emotions that will exactly fit your experience. However, many people who have lived through the suicide of a loved one experience some combination of the following feelings and grief responses:
- Denial and disbelief
- Rejection and abandonment
- Blame and self-recrimination
- Shame and embarrassment
- Depression and sadness
- Suicidal feelings
- Yearning for the person
What can I expect if I witnessed the suicide or if I found the body?
If you witnessed the suicide of your loved one or found the body, you are likely to experience trauma symptoms in addition to grief over the loss of your loved one. Images of your loved one at the time of death may be burned into your memory, making it difficult to concentrate on other things. You may experience anxiety and confusion as well as physical symptoms such as chest pain, stomach or digestive problems, breathing problems, or difficulty sleeping. It is also important to know that, even when you have not been an eyewitness to the death, you may develop trauma symptoms.
These emotional and physical reactions are normal responses to trauma and, even though it may not feel like it now, they will likely diminish in the weeks and months to come. If they do not, it is best to seek the help of a mental health professional who has experience working with people who have had traumatic experiences or losses.
What can I do to take care of myself so I can get through this?
It is imperative that you take care of yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
No matter how you choose to deal with your grief, you should not have to cope with your loss alone; be open to letting people help you live through this experience.
It may seem as if life will never feel normal again, as if you will not survive this, but you will. Be kind and patient with yourself, and find support—from other suicide loss survivors through AFSP’s Healing Conversations, by going to a support group, by seeing a therapist or counselor, or by attending an International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day event.
Consider learning about suicide and suicide loss in order to help you frame the loss of your loved one as well as the grief experience. Take optimal care of yourself and your family members.
Handling Special Occasions
Remember that anticipating a holiday, birthday, or other meaningful date after a loss can be harder than the experience of the day itself. Read more about handling special occasions here.
We partnered with The Mighty to ask suicide loss survivors what message or piece of advice they had for other loss survivors on handling the holidays. Click here to read that piece.