Support After Suicide
Someone I care about took their own life. Where can I find support?
- Losing someone by suicide is incredibly difficult and can feel very isolating
- If you’ve lost someone to suicide, support is available. You are not alone
Losing someone to suicide is different to any other kind of bereavement, which means it can be very isolating and lonely. If you’re struggling after the loss of a loved one the CALM helpline is there to support you or you can visit the Support After Suicide Partnership website for listings of where to find support right for you
Additional information and support can be found in Help is at Hand, a resource published by Public Health England. You can get a hard copy by contacting us here. The booklet contains practical advice as well as links and phone numbers to help you navigate the coroner’s courts, funerals, supporting children and lots more, during this difficult time. You can also find these resources at the Support after Suicide Partnership.
If you are supporting a friend or family member who has been affected by suicide, it can be hard to find the words. There is a great resource, Finding the Words, which can help guide you through talking and listening to someone who is bereaved by suicide.
How does losing someone to suicide feel?
It can be really hard to deal with a loss through suicide. As well as the usual feelings of bereavement, there can be a number of conflicting emotions.
There is no right way to feel grief, and it is completely normal to feel a range of emotions – sometimes simultaneously.
This may include feeling:
- Angry with the person for taking their own life – or with yourself for not having prevented it
- Rejected by what they have done
- Confused as to why they did it
- Guilty for not having been able to stop their death – you may go over in your mind the times you spent with them and ask yourself if you could have prevented it
- Worried about whether the deceased suffered
- Relieved that you no longer must be there to support the person or deal with their suicidal thoughts and urges
- Ashamed by what they did – particularly if your culture or religion sees suicide as sinful or disgraceful
- Reluctant to talk to other people about it
- Worried about the people who have been left behind.
A suicide is likely to have a huge impact, not just upon immediate family, but also on best friends, ex partners, colleagues, and even the person who sold them a newspaper or a coffee every day.
No matter what your relationship, understand that this can be extraordinarily difficult to deal with.
You may find a particular incident or memory with the person you have lost continues to play on your mind, or that you’re replaying certain situations over and over. Dealing with a suicide is incredibly difficult, in part because of the taboo that surrounds it, but there is help out there. Go through the resources and links above – and don’t be afraid to go to your GP.
Remember there is no right or ‘proper’ way to grieve, and everyone’s got different ways of dealing with their feelings. There may be guilt and remorse, shock and anger, denial, disbelief and a burning need to understand why this has happened.
Sometimes people get angry, with a specific person, with the world in general, or with the person who’s died. People can feel anxious about how they’re going to cope, have problems sleeping, find that they lose their appetite, feel tired all the time, or feel really down and lonely. While these are normal things to feel when someone dies, it can feel very hard to simply get through each day.
Coming to terms with someone dying doesn’t mean we forget that person, or that they stop being important to us. It’s alright to be upset. It’s normal, and there’s no shame in showing your emotions.
There’s no time limit on grief, so don’t rush yourself or let others rush you. In fact, many people bereaved by suicide often describe it as a longterm rollercoaster where different emotions surface at different times. It’s perfectly normal to feel ready for normal life to resume on one day and overwhelmed on another.
The CALM helpline and webchat are available from 5pm to midnight everyday to talk about whatever you’re going through. They have been talking to people going through these feelings for over a decade. Our trained staff are non-judgemental and can offer support and practical guidance, no matter what you’re going through.
Why do people have suicidal thoughts?
People who experience suicidal thoughts often want to end their life to be free of emotional or physical pain, to put an end to a difficult situation, to regain a sense of control when everything else feels out of control, or to relieve someone of a perceived burden. Sometimes, in the heat of the moment, life can feel hopeless. Often in this situation, you can feel that other people will be better off without you, but this is never the case. Suicide has a devastating effect on the people left behind, both family, friends and whole communities.
People who are bereaved by suicide can begin to have suicidal thoughts themselves.
No matter how you’re feeling, there is a way forward. Call the CALM helpline to talk to someone about your loss.
Where can I find help?
- Talk to CALM from 5pm to midnight everyday. Our professional helpline workers are there to talk and to help you find ways to move forward. Calls and webchats are free, anonymous, non-judgemental and confidential.
- Outside of these hours, calls the Samaritans on 116 123.
- Contact your GP for an appointment.
Moving forward after a suicide
It can be difficult to see how you can move on after losing someone to suicide. You will never not feel this loss, but you will be able to move forward and enjoy your life even if it doesn’t feel that way right now. People we speak to that have lost someone to suicide find the following has helped them:
- Tell those close to you how you feel
- Talk to others who are affected, you can give each other strength. Don’t keep your feelings to yourself. Others will be heavily impacted themselves and it can be a huge relief and comfort to them to realise someone else feels the same way.
- Don’t blame yourself or feel ashamed about what’s happened
- It is ok to feel angry
- It is ok to think the person you lost has let you down
- What happened is not your responsibility. It was not your fault. You are not to blame, and you could not have stopped this.
- Know that you can grow around the grief eventually – it’s not that you will forget the person, but you will grow space for other things alongside them
- Take time to share special memories and stories of loved ones.
Talking about losing a loved one to suicide
It can be difficult to talk about your loss. Many people don’t know what to do or say when you talk about suicide because of the stigma – that’s shame or embarrassment – surrounding the topic. It’s important to remember that the way people react is out of your control and not your responsibility. You are entitled to talk about your loss and how it makes you feel.
Here’s some ways to open up
“I need to talk to you about how i’m feeling. Things are tough since I lost [ ] and I feel really alone.”
“I really miss [ ] and am finding it very difficult to get by right now.”
“I need to talk to you about how i’m feeling. Things are tough since I lost [ ] and I’ve thought about taking my own life…”
I am still struggling to accept what has happened, both in reality and emotionally and every day, my feelings are different.
This loss brought up so much emotion for me because of the consequences of his death - anger at the wrong doers, at him, at myself, at everyone. I felt sadness, guilt, and happiness that he was at peace and guilt for feeling that. There was anger at myself for not seeing the signs and anger at the world for not doing more. And then came the grief. The roller coaster of emotions with death by suicide makes me a more compassionate person
When someone you love dies from suicide you have so many questions.
For those of us who loved Joe, his loss is all consuming, as it is for anyone who loses a loved one to suicide. Our inability to take those last few moments of pain away is what hurts the most.
Header illustration by Bryce Wymer