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Losing someone to suicide

Every type of grief can cause intense, complex feelings. But research shows that those of us bereaved by suicide may have especially complicated feelings. And we might experience extra struggles while trying to cope with the loss.

This might include feeling things like shame or guilt. This is a common reaction. But remember that neither you, nor the person who died by suicide, are to blame for their loss.

To the outside world (including family and friends) he was thoughtful, caring and inspirational. Someone with a loving and supportive family, secure job and content life. But inside, he was fighting an invisible battle that not even those closest knew about.

Coping after losing someone to suicide

This section has some tips to help you cope if you've lost someone to suicide:

Remember that it's not your fault

The causes of suicide are very complex - there's rarely one single cause. As much as we might want to, it's unlikely we can ever fully understand what led to someone taking their life.

  • You may spend a lot of time thinking about things you could have said or done differently. Or you might regret things that felt difficult or complicated about your relationship. Having these feelings does not mean you're to blame. If possible, try not to focus on 'what if'.
  • When we lose someone to suicide, we may feel guilty that we didn't realise how much they were struggling. But people can hide feelings well. And there are lots of complicated reasons why someone may not have been able to share how they were feeling.
  • If the person did share that they were feeling suicidal before they died, we might feel guilty about not doing more to support them. But supporting someone with suicidal feelings is very difficult. And the help available from crisis services can be limited. Even if you knew someone had suicidal thoughts, you alone couldn't have stopped this from happening.
  • We may feel blamed by those around us. There's still a lot of stigma around suicide and we may feel judged by others. For example, there may be beliefs about suicide within your religion or community which make you feel like you can't be open about your loss.
  • The person who we lost may have also blamed us for how they were feeling before they died. This can be very hurtful and distressing. But try to remember that when people are in pain, they can often hurt those closest to them. This doesn't mean that you were to blame or that they didn't care about you.

Outsiders looked in with curiosity... Curiosity turned into hushed questions – how did you not see any signs? 

Remember there's no right or wrong way to feel

When we lose someone to suicide, we can go through many different, complicated emotions. There's no right or wrong way to feel or to react.

You may feel:

  • Shocked, empty or numb
  • Like there's no hope or way of carrying on. You may experience suicidal feelings yourself
  • Angry - this might be towards other people, the world, yourself or the person you have lost
  • Very low or depressed
  • Like you want to self-harm
  • Anxious or panicky
  • Isolated, or like no-one understands what you're feeling
  • Traumatised by what has happened

I went to visit my doctor to complain about different symptoms, like sore limbs, fatigue, dizziness. He asked me if I was depressed.

Find ways to stay connected to the person you’ve lost

When someone dies by suicide, it can feel like all the focus is on how they died, rather than their life or them as a person.

It might help to do things to remember and stay connected to the person you've lost. Although sometimes this may feel too painful. So just do whatever feels helpful for you.

If you want to try this, you could:

  • Mark occasions like their birthday or anniversaries
  • Do things in their memory like lighting a candle, growing a plant or preparing special food
  • Talk aloud to them or write to them
  • Speak to them through prayer
  • Do things to include their memory in events or in daily life. For example, you could play music they liked, or make a meal they enjoyed
  • Talk about your memories of them with others
  • Record memories of them through journals, scrap books or memory boxes

As time passes, the way you grieve or remember them may change. But it doesn't have to stop. See our information on moving forward with grief for more advice about coping with long-term grief. 

Coming to terms with my mother's suicide

I wish we had more photos and videos to look back at. I wish I had appreciated her a little more.

Supporting each other

When someone dies by suicide, it can have a big impact on everyone who knew them. And different people cope in different ways. This can sometimes lead to conflict or relationship problems.

Try to be patient with each other and remember that we all grieve in our own way. The charity Relate supports people struggling with relationship problems. Cruse also has information on coping with family conflict after someone dies.

People seem to expect you to move on. I think that patience and support without a deadline is the best thing you can give to someone suffering from bereavement.

Support for bereavement by suicide

If you feel affected by a suicide, there are organisations that can help you to talk through difficult emotions.

Many people bereaved by suicide find that they need specific support.

It may help to talk to people who have also experienced bereavement by suicide. They may be able to relate to what you're feeling or help you to feel less alone. You may also be able to use your own experiences to support other people. Our pages on peer support have more information.

There are some helpful organisations listed on our support and self-care page. You could also consider:

  • Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide (SOBS) runs a helpline, local support groups and has many more practical resources. 
  • Cruse Bereavement Support offers information and support for people who have lost a loved one to suicide. Their website has more information on traumatic bereavement and suicide, including support if you live in Wales.

It took me a good few years to work through my feelings about the death, but in coming out of the depression I finally began to truly be myself and stop feeling so isolated and detached.

What if I didn't know the person who died?

Losing a loved one to suicide can be extremely painful and emotionally difficult.

But suicide can also have a ripple effect, extending beyond someone's immediate family and friends. You may still feel affected if someone you don't know very well has died by suicide.

First Hand has information for anyone affected by witnessing a suicide who didn't know the person who died. This might be because you happened to be there when they died, or because your job involves responding to these incidents.

This information was published in December 2023. We will revise it in 2026.

References and bibliography available on request.

If you want to reproduce this content, see our permissions and licensing page.

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