About grief

When someone close takes their own life our whole world can feel shaken

When someone takes their own life grief can hit us suddenly or slowly. It is different for each of us. And it changes, so how we are one minute may be very different to the next minute, or the next day, or the next month. We know grief is a healthy response to our loss but it can feel overwhelming .

Our experience of grief will be different depending on how close we were to the person weve lost, how important they were in our lives, how long wed known them, and how they died.

Grief can be so powerful we can feel its taken over our lives.

Our bodies may react: soreness, headaches, exhaustion, muscle aches and tightness, tears that seem to never stop, nausea, pain, numbness.

Our minds may feel confused: closed down, unable to think straight, distracted, unable to focus, fearful of our own or others safety.

We had vivid dreams: some distressing and some comforting. We pined and dreamt about bringing back the person wed lost.

Many of us found it hard to make simple decisions, to concentrate or to remember day to day things. We felt like our minds had shut down.?

Some of us had thoughts of suicide ourselves in our sense of hopelessness. The intensity of our pain seemed too much to bear. This is not unusual when we have lost someone to suicide.

An excerpt from “When someone take their own life… what next“?Government of Western Australia -?Mental Health Commission

Suicide bereavement

Grief after suicide is similar to grief after other types of death. However suicide raises additional complex?grief issues because of the sudden and traumatic nature of the death. These can include the following.


Suicide is often sudden and violent and may leave the bereaved traumatised. Intrusive images of the death?can recur, even if the death was not witnessed. The initial grief reactions of shock and numbness may also?be stronger and last longer.


Its a riddle that goes round and round and round in your mind and drives you absolutely crazy for years?and years and suddenly you think Im tormenting myself. I shall just never know the exact and precise?reason. (1)

For those bereaved by suicide there is often a desperate need to know why the suicide happened.?The search for answers may be relentless. However it is important that those bereaved reach the point?where they feel they have struggled with the question enough. They may have enough answers to satisfy?themselves or recognise that the reasons for the suicide will never be completely understood.


Guilt is a common reaction in bereavement and research suggests that guilt is felt more intensely amongst?those bereaved by suicide. Family members and friends often feel guilty about not having foreseen the?suicide or prevented it. Bereaved families and in particular bereaved parents, often feel guilty in some way?for the death; that there was something wrong in the family or with their parenting skills. Those bereaved?will often replay the events over and over again in their heads. There can be a long list of if onlys: If only I?had been home, if only I had recognised how they were feeling, if only I hadnt said that. There is a limit to?your responsibility, no-one is responsible for another persons decisions or actions.


For family and friends who have been through many years of chronic mental illness with their loved one?there may be feelings of relief. They may feel at least now they are at rest and they may sense freedom?from ongoing worry for their loved one. It is OK to feel this way. It does not mean that you wished your loved?one was dead.


It is common for people to react to a sudden death by looking for someone to blame. Families bereaved by?suicide may blame each other. Initially blame can be a way for some people trying to make sense of what?happened, however no-one is responsible for another persons decisions or actions.

Social Isolation

Historically there has been stigma attached to a death by suicide. It has been a taboo subject but this is?starting to change. Many of those bereaved note a lack of support following a suicide. This may be because?family and friends are unsure how to react. A sense of shame and of being different can also stop people?from accessing possible supports, however support is available and can be useful.

Feeling suicidal

The pain of grief may be so intense and unrelenting that those bereaved by suicide may think I cant go?on like this anymore. Identification with the person who has died may also make them feel particularly?vulnerable. The bereaved frequently have suicidal thoughts. Finding support and/or professional help at?these times is very important.


The bereaved often feel rejected and abandoned by their loved one and also may feel anger towards that?person for leaving them. Anger is a natural response to being hurt. It is helpful to talk about being angry and?find ways to deal with it.

An excerpt from?Information & support packs for those bereaved by suicide or other sudden death?-?Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing as part of the National Suicide Prevention Strategy
1 Wertheimer, A. A Special Scar: The Experiences of People Bereaved by Suicide. (1991). London: Routledge

Further reading

Loosing someone close through suicide
An article from Professor Keith Hawton of?the Centre for Suicide Research, University of Oxford

The loss of someone youve been close to, whatever the cause of their death, can bring intense feelings of grief.
But losing someone through suicide can cause reactions and emotions that are different to those felt after death from illness, an accident or natural causes. The fact that a persons death involved an element of choice raises painful questions.


when-someone-takes-their-own-life-coverWhen someone takes their own life… what next?
Government of Western Australia -?Mental Health Commission
This thoughtful publication has been produced by the Government of Western Australia to provide the bereaved with information about not only the more immediate practical aspects but the longer term issues such as talking about your loss and the road to recovery.


Information & support packs for those bereaved by suicide or other sudden death
Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing as part of the National Suicide Prevention Strategy
Information & support packs for those bereaved by suicide or other sudden death?are a redeveloped suite of resources produced by Urbis Keys Young in consultation with community and government stakeholders under the National Suicide Prevention Strategy. A unique pack has been created for each State and Territory, containing information on the process of loss and grief, how to talk to young people about suicide or sudden death, and services and resources available to people grieving.


help-is-at-hand-coverHelp is at hand
Professor Keith Hawton of?the Centre for Suicide Research, University of Oxford
This 46 page booklet was developed by Professor Keith Hawton and Sue Simkin?at the Centre for Suicide Research, University of Oxford, in collaboration
with an advisory group established by the Department of Health.
This guide is aimed at the wide?range of people who are affected?by suicide or other sudden,?traumatic death. It aims firstly to?help people who are unexpectedly
bereaved in this way. It also provides?information for healthcare and?other professionals who come into?contact with bereaved people, to?assist them in providing help and to?suggest how they themselves may?find support if they need it.