When somebody important to you dies, you are usually left with an overwhelming jumble of thoughts and feelings. But when their death is from suicide, these feelings can be even more intense or complicated.
This is because as well as the pain you are going through, you may also be feeling shock, guilt and anger, and have many questions going around in your head. The suddenness of a suicide and the way in which it happens can be very hard to make sense of.
Why do people take their own life?
People who decide to end their own life don't do it because they want to escape from those they love, but because they are terribly ill and feel they have no other way of stopping the pain. Suicide is something that happens to someone. It is not caused by somebody and it is nobody’s fault.
Grief after a suicide
When someone dies by suicide, those left behind often experience what's called "complicated grief". This is when the overwhelming emotions of grief carry on for a very long time. There can be several reasons for this, including:
- The shock of the sudden death.
- Having lots of questions about why the person chose to take their own life.
- The bereaved person asking themselves if they could have prevented it in some way.
Whatever you are feeling, remember there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Whatever you feel is right for you.
Guilt after a suicide
Everyone who has lost someone to suicide will ask themselves if they could have done something to stop the person dying. Try to accept that we can't always save the ones we love, however much we want to. It’s really important that you don't blame yourself OR the ill person for what happened.
Talking about it
Speaking to someone you trust and feel comfortable with can help you make sense of the situation and feel less alone. You don’t have to tell them everything you're feeling, just whatever you're comfortable with. If you can’t think of anyone you know who you want to confide in, or you feel you need more support, there are trained people at organisations such as Winston’s Wish, Child Bereavement UK and Hope Again who can help you cope with difficult feelings. The service they offer is free, and everything you tell them will be kept private.
What if I don’t want to tell others what happened?
While it is important to talk to people you feel comfortable with – or a counsellor if you prefer – you may not feel comfortable speaking to people you are not close to. Because there is a lot of misunderstanding about why people take their own lives, it can be difficult to tell others. If you are going back to school and are worried about what your classmates will ask you, it can help to have a response ready, for example: “Thanks, but I don’t want to talk about it at the moment."
Looking after yourself
Try to eat regularly and get enough sleep. Even though it may seem difficult, getting back into a routine can help you cope with your pain. If you’re tempted to live off fast food or chocolate, remember that healthy foods can help your body and mind feel better. The NHS UK website has lots of information on healthy diets for young people. They also have good tips and advice if you're finding it difficult to sleep.
Image credit: Sydney Rae, Unsplash
Other things you can do:
- Keep a diary – write down your feelings, thoughts, memories – anything at all that comes into your head.
- Get out of the house for a while.
- Talk to a friend.
- Listen to music.
- Go for ice cream.
When will I feel better?
It might seem impossible to believe, but in time the pain you are feeling will lessen as you adjust to your loss. How long this takes depends on many different things. Some people might start to feel better in months or even weeks, others might take much longer.
However desperately sad you feel, do believe that in time your sadness, anger, pain and depression will become easier to bear, and going about your daily activities won't be such a struggle anymore. Getting to this point can be difficult at times, but don’t give up.
If you have suicidal thoughts
Sometimes people who have lost someone close to them from suicide may be troubled by suicidal thoughts themselves. If you are in distress and need support, do not hesitate to speak to a trusted adult, such as a relative, friend, teacher or GP. If you are worried they can’t help you, the Samaritans and Childline have trained counsellors ready to speak to you at any time of the day or night. The service is free, and whatever you say to them will be kept completely private.
Samaritans - freephone: 116 123
Childline - freephone 0800 1111
If it’s an emergency or you need help straight away, call 999.
Sabina's story: How I'm coping after losing my father to suicide - Mental Health Foundation
Help is at hand: support for teens after someone has died by suicide - Winston's Wish