wikiHow to Deal With the Suicide of a Loved One

Three Methods:Preparing for an Emotional ReactionCoping with GriefConquering Stigma

Your spouse, child, parent, friend, or another person close to you has recently committed suicide. Your world is spinning. The loss of a loved one by any means can be devastating. Knowing that your loved one chose to take his own life can add a whole new set of challenges. Passing time may help you fully grieve and adapt to the loss. In the meantime, you can learn skills to help you understand your emotions and care for yourself during this tragic period.

Method 1
Preparing for an Emotional Reaction

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    Expect shock. When you first hear the news of your loved one's suicide it's common for family members and friends to feel numb. You might say things like "I can't believe it!" because you don't think this can be real. This feeling will go away over time as you come to accept the death.[1]
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    Know that feeling confused is normal. Confusion is another emotion typically experienced by those who lose a loved one to suicide. You and others might constantly ask "why" this happened or "why" your loved one didn't show any signs.
    • The need to make sense of the death may haunt you continuously.[2] Trying to piece together the last weeks, days, or hours of your loved ones life may help you understand better. However, you must accept that, with suicide, there will always be some unanswered questions.
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    Brace yourself for anger, guilt and blame. You may notice yourself feeling angry about the suicide. Your angry feelings may be guilt directed at yourself for not seeing any signs that your loved one was hurting. You may also be direct responsibility at God, at other family members, at mental health professionals for not doing enough, or at your loved one for not reaching out to you and asking for your help.
    • Recognize that blaming yourself or feeling guilty is common, but it's not your fault. Blame may help you try to cope with the loss by assigning responsibility, when you are truly upset by the idea that your life and the lives of your loved ones are not in your control.[3]
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    Face your feelings of rejection or perceived abandonment.[4] When your loved one commits suicide you may think of yourself as not being good enough. You figure if your relationship with this person were "enough" then he may not have chosen to take his life. You are upset that he left you behind to deal with this devastating pain on your own.
    • It's okay to feel abandoned or rejected. But, remember, suicide is a very complex ordeal to the victim and those left behind. Know that this choice was your loved one's decision because he couldn't cope with his life or certain circumstances--it's not a reflection of you.

Method 2
Coping with Grief

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    Reach out to loved ones. After you learn that your loved one committed suicide you may withdraw from friends and family members. Others may cause a stronger emotional reaction of guilt or blame. Remember that these people may be just as upset by the death as you. Rather than isolating yourself spend more time with those who also loved this person. Doing so may offer you comfort.[5]
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    Remember the fond memories.[6] As you congregate together and try to comfort one another, take the time to recall the good days you had with the deceased person. Dwelling on the hows and whys of the suicide (while understandable) won't lead to peace.
    • Recounting your fond memories may bring you back to a time when this person was happy. You may choose to remember her that way.
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    Stick to a routine. As soon as you feel able, try to return to your usual routine. Doing this will be very hard at first. Even getting dressed or cleaning your home might be painstaking activities. No, things will never be "normal" again, but establishing your routine again may help you gain a sense of purpose and structure.[7]
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    Eat right and exercise.[8] When you are mourning a loved one's death, it can be easy to forget meals. Taking care of yourself is probably the last thing on your mind. However, eating a few balanced meals each day will give you the strength to persevere through this ordeal. Exercising - even if it is only walking your dog around the block - can help reduce the sadness or anxiety you feel and improve your mood.[9]
    • As you develop your routine, include meal-planning and exercise into your schedule so that you can properly nourish your body during this stressful time.
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    Practice self-soothing activities. All the upsetting thoughts and feelings associated with your loved one's suicide can cause you to feel sad, anxious, or even depressed. Doing activities that help you relax may ease these feelings and reinvigorate you.[10]
    • Self-soothing activities can include anything you find calming, such as wrapping up in a warm blanket, drinking hot tea, taking a hot bath, lighting aromatherapy candles, playing soothing music, sitting in front of the fire, or reading a good book.
    • If you are an adolescent who finds it hard to express yourself and release stress in other ways, you might benefit from drawing out your feelings in an expressive coloring book or free-handed.[11]
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    Don't feel bad about having fun. Attending social events can be a form of distraction from your grieving, and to remind you that, no matter how rough things are right now, life will get better.[12]
    • Distracting yourself from your emotions for a short time is not diminishing the seriousness of what you're going through. Instead, going out with friends, watching a funny movie, or dancing to favorite songs you shared with the deceased can be a great way to restore your ability to handle the grief.
    • You might find yourself bowling over with laughter and then drowning in tears. That's okay, too.
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    Seek professional help, if necessary. Suicide survivors frequently gain better understanding of what the deceased was going through by seeing a grief counselor. A counselor can explain confusing mental health issues that your loved one may have been battling. He or she can also help you process what you're feeling and develop healthy coping skills. This is especially helpful, if you witnessed the suicide, since such a traumatic ordeal can manifest into post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.[13]
    • Ask your primary care doctor for a referral or search for a professional specializing in grief after suicide.

Method 3
Conquering Stigma

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    Learn the stats associated with suicide. Educating yourself, your loved ones, and others around you can help you to make better sense of why your loved one chose to take his life. Each year in America, more than 40,000 people take their own lives. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, and the second leading cause for young people ages 10 to 24.[14]
    • Doing some research about the why's behind suicide can help you to better understand what your loved one was going through, and maybe even save lives in the future.
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    Don't stay silent about your grief. Quite different from other causes of death, suicide often leaves survivors feeling isolated. The stigma built up around suicide makes survivors unlikely to talk about what they're going through with others, and you may even want to keep quiet about the details of the death to avoid this stigma.[15][16]
    • Talk to your friends and loved ones about your thoughts and feelings is essential to the healing process. Be courageous and seek out others with whom you can share your story.
    • You don't have to tell everyone in your local community, but open up to a few individuals you can count on for support. Staying silent about this issue could prevent others from learning about the signs and possibly saving a life.
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    Join a support group for those affected by suicide. Getting support from other survivors, people who are also dealing with the loss of a loved one to suicide, can help you find comfort and overcome stigma.
    • You can join a group facilitated by a counselor or a layperson who has personal experience dealing with grief after a suicide. Check out a few local groups to see if you feel comfortable opening up and sharing your story.[17]
    • If you cannot find a local group for suicide survivors, you can access one online.[18]


  • While some differ on this idea, many think that staying busy can help move past the grief. While you shouldn't hide from your emotions by working or staying busy, remaining active can ward off depression and dark thoughts.
  • Find a grief counseling center or group if you are having a particularly hard time and have no one to to turn to. It might also help to do this to get a fresh perspective that friends and family of the person who died cannot offer.


  • You may find that you want to start bad habits (i.e. nail-biting, smoking, doing drugs, drinking) while you are in grief. Perhaps you did these things at one time and are now thinking of starting up again. Get help fast! A good starting place is with your doctor or your local community services which may have many programs to help you.
  • Any continual thoughts of death - your own death or others - should also be reported.
  • Any prolonged depression should be reported to your doctor immediately.
  • If you feel suicidal, go to your local hospital, there are trained professionals to help you.

Article Info

Categories: Coping with Loss | Coping with Suicide