Each of our experiences of grief is unique and different. Each of us will need different ways to express and cope with our loss. Not all the below will be experienced by everyone. It is important to remember that while grief is a normal and natural response to loss, it can also be a very difficult experience especially when grieving loss to suicide.
Some of the experiences include:
Reactions to Trauma
As with grief, people react to trauma in different ways.
Some of the more common reactions are listed below. We don’t expect that everyone will experience all of these reactions.
- easily startled by noises
- increased irritability
- withdrawal or detachment from others, loss of interest in social activities
- avoidance of certain places or situations that are reminders of the experience
- seeking control over tasks and events
- easily distracted
- changes in eating or sleeping
- flashbacks or re-experiencing what you may have seen while awake, or in dreams
- pre-occupation with what happened, repetitive thoughts, asking ‘why?’
- confused or slowed thinking
- difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- experiencing memory problems
- increased anxiety, panic attacks, feeling unsafe
- troubled or distressed when exposed to other disturbing events e.g., in the news
- worry about others
- feelings of abandonment, isolation, powerlessness
- feeling out of control or that life and the world are out of control
- numbness and/or have mood swings
- palpitations, trembling or sweating
- breathing difficulties
- headaches or muscle aches
- digestive problems such as nausea or a change in eating patterns
- sleep problems
These symptoms can be distressing, however there are ways to work through trauma. In many cases, these symptoms decrease in the weeks following the traumatic experience.
Many people find death difficult to talk about. When the death is a result of suicide, it can be even more difficult for others to know what to say or do.
Although this is changing, some people who are bereaved by suicide experience what we call stigma. This could mean that you may be concerned about what others think of you because of your loss to suicide, you may not want to tell others that the death was due to suicide, or you might notice that others seem distant or remain silent about your loss and the person who died. There is a later section which may help others better understand your experience and how to support you.
These experiences can be stressful and add to the sense of isolation you may be experiencing. One of the ways to break down this sense of isolation is to connect with others who have lost someone to suicide. This is where support groups can be extremely beneficial. The support section has information about groups that are available.
Many of the experiences and issues of losing someone to suicide are shared in that others will have similar responses. It’s also good to acknowledge that your relationship to the person who died can affect your experience of grief – whether the person was your parent, partner, sibling, child, friend or work colleague. There are resources and books available on the Postvention Australia website that discuss these perspectives of grief that can be very helpful.
Also, if there was distance in your relationship, your grief may be different to if it was close and harmonious. There are sometimes conflicts between family members due to differences in expressions of grief, or when family or friends blame other family and friends for the death. This may be handled through communication and understanding and supporting each other’s way of dealing with their grief. Family counselling may also be a useful option.
For more suggestions, please visit our Resources Page for a number of helpful readings, guides and websites.