Dr. Elena Duong
Grief From Suicide Loss
Updated: Nov 27, 2022
Being left behind after a loved one suicided is difficult to describe and experience. You are forever changed… you never stop loving or missing them. It is someone who should be here but isn’t, and part of the grief is learning to reconcile with it. After it happens, it is all about surviving one moment at a time. It is making yourself breathe in and out even if you don’t want to.
In this blog, I use people “suicided” or “died by suicide” instead of “committed suicide.” Commit denotes something criminal when suicide is not a crime, and it also continues to stigmatize suicide/mental health (Beaton, Forster, & Maple, 2013).
The grief can be very visceral and raw for loved ones who have loss someone by suicide. The following are folks in the public eye, who have loss someone to suicide:
Anderson Cooper, broadcast journalist, loss his brother to suicide in his early 20's:
Sadness Isn't An Enemy podcast episode on All There Is with Anderson Cooper
Anna Akana, creative creator, loss her sister to suicide as a teenager:
please don’t kill yourself by Anna Akana
Lewis Capaldi, musician/singer, wrote this song about losing his aunt to suicide:
Before You Go by Lewis Capaldi
According to the American Association of Suicidology (n.d.), there are over 47,000 suicides per year in the U.S. “Every death by suicide leaves behind at least 130 people who report they knew the person who died. Of those, it is likely at least a third feel very close to the person who died and might need intervention or services. This creates about 1 million new people a year in the U.S. who are directly impacted by the suicide of someone close to them” (American Association of Suicidology, n.d.).
Wondering Why is Natural
Wondering why may be a persistent question in your mind after the suicide loss, which is normal. Not all folks who suicide appear depressed or struggling before they suicide. They may appear cheery when in reality it is all a facade, leaving their loved ones reeling from the sudden loss. Therefore, folks may lack closure and may never really know what happened since the one who holds the answer is no longer alive.
Everyone’s life is unique, and there is not one clear factor/reason for suicides. What we do know is many people who suicided likely felt like they did not have any other option, and they just wanted to end their pain/suffering. Most people who suicide don’t intend to hurt their loved ones as they suicide.
Surviving After Suicide Loss
After a loss from suicide, all we tend to remember is how their life ended not how they lived. Remembering how they lived is important since they had a life before the suicide. The suicide ended their life, but it does not define their life or how they lived. The following suggestions may help with the coping process:
Cover the basics, including eating, hydrating, and sleeping. This may be exceedingly difficult, and it is okay to ask for help
Look within yourself. Attend to what you need, such as a taking a break from work
Please be gentle and patient with yourself in this process
Feel the feelings. There is truly no one-way to grieve. There is not one timeline for grief. It all takes time
There may be a range of emotions partly due to the person’s own hand in their death, likely resulting in complicated and traumatic grief
Writing/journaling can be helpful in processing the feelings related to grief
You might have your own thoughts of suicide, which is normal. If you are having plans to suicide, please seek crisis services, including 911. You can also refer to our crisis numbers page by clicking here
Seek support with loved ones or a support group. Feel free to explore the resources below, including the Alliance of Hope
If you want/need more support through a therapist, it may be more helpful to look for one with experience/specialty with grief
Living on after a loved one suicided is very difficult. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise…especially since it's likely haven’t experienced a similar loss. Everyone’s journey to live on is their own. The heart-wrenching pain may never quite fade away, and it does not need to. To have known them…to have loved them may mean they are always with you one-way or another. Over time, you will learn to cope and manage the grief.
Again, please reach out if you want/need support. If you want/need mental health support after losing someone to suicide and with someone who can meet you on your grief journey, feel free to contact us through our site by clicking here.
“The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over' the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to.” by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, author of On Death and Dying
“Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot. All that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.” by Jamie Anderson
“To lose someone you love is the very worst thing in the world. It creates an invisible hole that you feel you are falling down and will never end. People you love make the world real and solid and when they suddenly go away forever, nothing feels solid any more.” by Matt Haig from A Boy Called Christmas
“…the sad part is, that I will probably end up loving you without you for much longer than I loved you when I knew you. Some people might find that strange. But the truth of it is that the amount of love you feel for someone and the impact they have on you as a person, is in no way relative to the amount of time you have known them.” by Ranata Suzuki
“There is an ocean of silence between us… and I am drowning in it.” by Ranata Suzuki
“If there ever comes a day when we can't be together, keep me in your heart, I'll stay there forever.” – Winnie the Pooh
Stay tuned. The next topic is "Gratitude: An Essential Emotion."
American Association of Suicidology. (n.d.). Resources for Suicide Loss Survivors. American Association of Suicidology. https://suicidology.org/resources/suicide-loss-survivors/
Beaton, S., Forster, P., & Maple, M. (2013). Suicide and language: Why we shouldn’t use the ‘C’ word. InPsych, 35(1). https://psychology.org.au/publications/inpsych/2013/february/beaton
Alliance of Hope for Suicide Loss Survivors
American Association of Suicidology: Suicide Loss Survivors
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: I’ve lost someone
National Alliance on Mental Illness: Personal Stories: A Plea From A Survivor Of Suicide Loss
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Loss Survivors
SAVE: Suicide Awareness Voices of Education: Grief Support for Suicide Loss Survivors
Written by Elena Duong, Psy.D.
Edited by Susanna La, Ph.D.