Coping With the Death of a Loved One From Suicide
November 21 marks Survivors of Suicide Loss Day. Losing a friend or loved one to suicide can come with a unique grieving process, and an impact that stays with those grieving for a long time.
In this article, our clinical experts share some tips on coping with the loss of a loved one from suicide.
You are not alone
First, it’s important to know that suicide and suicidal thoughts are very common. For example, suicide is the second-leading cause of death in young Canadians aged 15-35 years. One third of all suicides are in the 45-59 age group. If you have lost someone to suicide, you are not alone.
An individual grieving process
The grieving process for survivors of suicide is unique to every individual, and there is no time line for how long someone will grieve the loss.
Those affected might feel numb, confused, angry, sad or any other range of emotions. They may feel all of these things over time, or even all at once.
Different things will help different people cope with their grief, and you should cope and grieve at your own pace.
Feelings of guilt
Some people might experience feelings of blame or guilt, asking themselves if they could have done more or should have seen more to be able to help their loved one. It is important to know that no individual has the power to stop someone from suiciding, and you are not to blame.
Uncertainty about how to talk about loss
It is normal to feel overwhelmed with loss, and to feel worried about telling others and talking about the suicide, as there is still unfortunately a lot of stigma around this topic. You may have fears of how others will react to the news of a suicide.
If this is the case for you, it can help to start by explaining to friends and family that you feel unsure about how people will react when you talk about the suicide, and ask if they can support you by listening openly.
Reframe: Talk about your loved one with others, recalling good memories and celebrating the life they had. Suicide is part of their story, but it does not have to be their legacy if you don’t want it to be, and sharing the things about that person that you want them to be remembered for can help.
Be kind to yourself: Don’t be hard on yourself when you are having a difficult day, accept that this is a normal part of the grieving process and that healing is not a linear journey.
Connect with others with similar experiences: Join support groups, in person or online.
Self-care: Give yourself permission to engage in activities that help you relax and feel good. For example, you could take a walk in nature, read a book, take a long bath or see a movie.
Seek support: Speaking to a professional can be enormously helpful for those who have experienced a loss through suicide. Asking for help and having an impartial person to talk to can help you to experience your grief differently.
A final word
Many people experience thoughts of suicide, or make plans for suicide. In fact, nearly 12% of Canadians report thoughts of suicide in their lifetime. If this sounds like you or someone you know, you don’t need to feel ashamed or worried about talking about these feelings or your concerns.
If you or someone else is at immediate risk of harm, call 911 right away.
If you’re not in immediate crisis, call the Canada Suicide Prevention Service on 833-456-4566
CMHA-YRSS does not currently have a suicide bereavement program in place, although we are looking to add this to our services in the future. However, some of our partners and fellow agencies have excellent support that we are happy to refer you to.
Toronto Distress Centre – Survivor Support Program
You don’t need to live in Toronto to be eligible for service.
Victim Services of York Region