Bereavement due to suicide

First reactions-shock, disbelief, despair & relief

After the death of someone close to them, most people grieve and go through a period of mourning. Psychological reactions to bereavement vary between individuals as well as between cultures and ethnic groups. Reactions also vary in nature and intensity according to the type of lost relationship and according to the cause of death. How people grieve is also affected by personality, age, gender, previous experience of loss and what support is available. However, certain aspects of grief are probably universal.

Bereavement is harrowing for most people, but a death by suicide can be particularly horrific and shocking (also see ‘Finding out’).

One woman told us that her father's death had not really been a shock. This was because for years her father had said that he would take his own life if he developed a terminal illness. Another woman had, with her mother and brother, helped her sick father travel to Switzerland for an assisted death. He had requested this type of death because he had mainly lost his motor neurone function and wanted a dignified end to his life.

For more information on assisted dying see Dignity in Dying’s websites.

Some people we talked to said they felt quite numb after their loved one’s suicide. They could not believe it and found it hard to function.

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Many people had quite a strong physical reaction when they heard the news that a friend or close relative might not live or had died suddenly due to suicide. One woman said that she found it hard to eat, lost weight, and found it hard to look after her everyday physical needs. Some found it hard to sleep. Others reacted in different ways.

Most people said that they felt desperately sad when they realised that they would no longer see the person they had loved so much. Then they started wondering why it had happened. People also wondered if they could have done anything to prevent the tragedy. Other emotions included despair, bewilderment, guilt and anger (also see ‘Changing emotions - sadness, guilt & anger’).
People may feel relief as well as the usual feelings of grief. Some people had been reassured to hear that this is not an uncommon response.

Last reviewed January 2015.

Last updated October 2012.

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