Recovering from Grief After a Suicide

It's one thing to lose your loved one, but losing them to suicide can be an entirely different story. It can leave you confused and asking the proverbial "why". This article highlights the ways you can recover after a suicide of someone dear to you.

It's not always easy to recover from a loss. When someone you love deliberately takes their own life, it can even make the healing process even more difficult. Suicide claims 800,000 lives each year. Whether your loved one is battling mental health issues, suffered from addiction, or encountered problems too heavy to bear--suicide can be devastating for those they left behind.


The truth about suicide

There are many reasons why people can bring themselves to take their own lives. The truth is, there is no single cause. It can be a myriad of factors that serve as triggers coupled with your loved one's vulnerable state.


  • Genetics: Many studies attribute suicide as a part of inherited traits. This is said to be related with the brain chemical make-up of an individual, which makes them more susceptible to depression and suicidal thoughts.


  • Substance abuse: People who suffer with addictions are more prone to risky behaviors such as self-harm and suicide. People who take drugs, or drink alcohol are 120 times more prone to taking their own lives especially if they are under the influence of multiple substances.


  • Depression: Clinical depression is a mental health condition that affects a person's brain chemistry. The lack of serotonin in the brain often causes negative thoughts and feelings in a person's brain. Those who suffer from depression may feel isolated, making them hesitant to seek help from loved ones or to find ways to get treatment, which may sadly result to suicide.


  • Low levels of life satisfaction: Getting laid down from a job, losing money from a business, or continuously experiencing a series of setbacks in life may cause someone to a downward spiral of grief and suicidal thoughts.


  • Health problems: Those who are recently diagnosed with life-threatening diseases may feel a sense of hopelessness. Recent patients are often at risk for suicide especially after receiving a diagnosis of a terminal illness.


  • Experiencing abuse: Some people who commit suicide have experienced abuse from family members--whether physically, sexually, emotionally or verbally. These forms of abuse may cause depression and a low self-esteem, causing someone to take their own lives.


Why am I feeling this way after my loved one's suicide?

You may find yourself in a roller coaster of emotions after the suicide. According to mental health experts, it is normal to experience the following emotions:


  • Shock: If you are not aware of your loved ones struggle, or if they hid things from you, you may find yourself in utter disbelief. Some people initially feel emotionless--even to the point that they are in denial over what had happened.


  • Anger: After getting a grip of what happened, you might find yourself feeling angry about the suicide. Often times, family members feel angry towards their loved ones who left them behind. You may be also angry at yourself for not being able to prevent the situation.


  • Guilt: Coupled with anger, you may also feel guilty and find yourself rehashing past conversations where you thought you could have helped. Memories of you and your loved on triggers guilt towards the things you did or not have done.


  • Confusion: As you think back about the previous events that led to your loved one's suicide, you try to find a rationale over what happened. Some things may leave you feeling confused especially if their suicidal thoughts were left undetected.


  • Despair: After aggressive emotions that may take over you, you may find yourself often breaking down, crying, and wanting to isolate yourself. This may be the longest and most difficult part of recovery as you may try to go on with your life knowing that your loved one isn't physically with your anymore.


Understand that all these emotions are normal to experience within your period of grief. Although it may be a difficult time in your life, there are healthy ways to cope with your loss. 


What are healthy ways to cope with a loved one's suicide?

Let it out, but don't dwell on it.

As mentioned, it is completely normal to experience feelings of grief. Whether you feel like shouting, crying, or hugging your pillow tight, let it all out. Let yourself feel. Losing someone is truly painful, and it is important not to bottle up these emotions. 


During the early stages of losing someone over suicide, it is normal to often find yourself crying or feeling tinges of pain. Allow yourself to be vulnerable during this period. This may temporarily interfere with your daily life, but it shouldn't be disruptive to the point that your grief turns into a long-term preoccupation. Lay down your burdens, but make sure to pick up yourself afterwards.


Talk to trusted friends and family.

It may be tempting to lock yourself in your room and keep your thoughts to yourself. Talking to someone may be the last thing in your mind. However, keeping in touch is one of the most effective ways to heal, and can even be therapeutic for you.


You can open up about your thoughts and feelings about the suicide to trusted friends and family. Make sure to find people who are empathic and can truly listen. It is normal to keep on rehashing past events especially during the early stages of loss, so find someone you can vent your feelings with.


Prepare yourself for painful reminders.

After a loss, it is almost inevitable to experience daily reminders about your loved one. A picture, a certain smell, a nostalgic place, and even your loved one's clothes can suddenly trigger feelings of pain. Be prepared that you will experience this once in a while, even years after your journey to recovery.


Instead of feeling grief, you can turn these reminders as a celebration of their life. Associate these small reminders to beautiful memories about your loved one. Even as you experience memory triggers, there's sure to be much joy to be remembered about that special person in your life.


Seek professional help.

If you feel like you need more intervention that self-coping strategies, it is best to seek professional help. You can find counselors or faith based treatment centers who are ready to help you on your road to recovery.


The most common hurdle that prevents people from seeking professional help is the social stigma that comes with it. It is important to remember that stigmas are just baseless perceptions that shouldn't even matter--what matters more is your health and wellness.


Give time to heal.

Everybody has their own pace to recover from a loss. This is a time to be kind to yourself as healing is always a process. There may be days where you feel great, and other days you will feel just okay. On bad days, you may find yourself in anguish. This doesn't mean that you aren't recovering--you simply need to give yourself more time to take it day after day. It won't be quick, and it won't be instant. Like a physical wound, you heart needs the right time and pace to heal.


Consider healthy distractions.

After venting out your emotions, losing a loved one may leave out a void that is nagging to be filled. When this void is not filled, people often undergo the cycle of unhealthy grief that leads to destructive behaviors.


Find ways to fill your time with healthy distractions such as new hobbies. A lot of people find it therapeutic to get a pet, plant their own garden, write, or do outdoor activities to help in the grieving process. These healthy distractions can help ease the pain of loss, without leaving you to constantly feel pain within the day-to-day events.


Have something to look forward to.

Looking forward to something helps people to find the bright side in life. Often, those who dwell in the past find themselves always feeling down and pessimistic--a state you never want to be in for the long term. Unhealthy rumination can make you unproductive, can bring more feelings of despair, and may not even be helpful for your recovery.


Whether it's a fun event, a time with your friends, or an upcoming trip, fill your calendar of things to look forward to during your healing process. It can serve as another way to move forward despite the loss of your loved one.


Love lives on: find the ray of light amidst the darkness

Losing your loved one to suicide may seem like a long, dark tunnel that's just all too difficult to get out of. However, understanding that there are simple strategies to cope can help you deal with loss in a healthy way. 


Whether you feel like you're fast or slow in your healing journey, always remember that moving forward is what truly matters. Moving forward means keeping your beloved's memories in your heart, while walking towards the ray of light--and finally away from the dark tunnel of grief.

About the Author
Adam Durnham is a freelance blogger from Detroit, Michigan who writes primarily about coping skills, addiction, and recovery from loss.
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