What you might be feeling
You may feel shock – suicide is often unexpected and it may feel very difficult to believe what has happened.
You may feel very angry – angry with the person who has died, angry with yourself because you didn’t act differently or prevent this, angry with other people, feeling that someone else is to blame.
People often feel guilty – believing that they could or should have done something to prevent the person’s death. You may spend a lot of time thinking, ‘if only...’
If the person who has died had been ill or depressed for some time, you may feel relieved that they are no longer suffering and that the stress you may have lived under is over. These feelings can also make us feel guilty and are hard to acknowledge – but they are a natural and understandable reaction.
You may feel ashamed – because you feel other people are looking at you, branding you as a bad parent or partner, for example – or because there is still stigma attached to mental health problems and suicide.
You may feel anxious about other friends and family members, worried about the consequences for others and worried about how you will cope.
Feeling sad is perfectly natural, but if the pain feels more constant, it may be helpful to speak to your doctor.
The death of another person by suicide can be traumatic. If you discovered the body or witnessed the death you may find yourself experiencing recurring nightmares or flashbacks. You may even be imagining what happened. Flashbacks are very distressing and can be symptoms of post-traumatic stress. If this is happening, speak to your doctor who will be able to help with this, perhaps with medication or psychological therapy.
It can help to know that you are not alone. The Health Talk website has a film library showing 40 people from across the country talking about their experience of being bereaved by suicide. Their stories can help you feel less isolated and show you how other people have responded to their bereavement.
Helping you recover
At first, and for some time after the death, you may not even be able to think about the way forward because all of your efforts will go into surviving and dealing with the emotional challenges and practical problems it has brought. Losing a loved one always takes a long time to come to terms with but bereavement by suicide is known to involve a particularly difficult and lengthy period of grieving.
People may expect that you will recover within months; the truth is that you may never recover completely but you will adapt to a changed life over time. Be prepared for this, however don’t think that it means you will always feel the pain so keenly. You may not be able to imagine how the pain will lessen but over time the gaps in between the moments of thinking about your loss gradually get bigger and bigger. Things will never be the same as before but you will find a “new normal”.
It’s really important to look after your own wellbeing – the Five Ways to Wellbeing discusses five key things we need in our lives to have a sense of wellbeing – and gives tips on how to improve your wellbeing.
The Living Life to the Full course provides helpful and practical tips for feeling better and managing emotions
You may find it helpful to talk to a health professional or counsellor – see local help for details