Lost to Suicide


A suicide survivor, or a suicide griever, is a person who has lost someone to suicide. A person never "gets over" this kind of loss, but they can get through it with the support of others… especially others who have traveled down that same painful path.  

You may experience a range of feelings including shock, numbness, guilt, anger, confusion, denial and sadness.  There is often stigma attached to suicide, so at times grievers will unfortunately encounter insensitive people who may look to blame, judge or avoid you. Often friends don't know what to say, and in their effort to say something they think is helpful, they may say something very hurtful. Unfortunately, you may also find in your pain, that the support and care from old friends may be hard to find. Sometimes when people don’t know what to say, they stay away. This is common for many grievers, not just those who have lost loved ones this way. It is helpful to find a support group for survivors, or a good counselor or friend to talk to. Look for someone who is patient and can just listen and be with you.  You might find it helpful to call a hot line number, connect with a web site that offers validation, or reading books by others  who have gone through similar circumstances. A helpful site is www.afsp.org (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention).  

Self-care at this time is extremely important. Taking time to rest (sleep may be hard to come by), cry, exercise, drink water, eat healthy foods (although you may have lost your appetite) take grief breaks, watch light TV (avoid the news), spend time with supportive people... be with those who give you strength and those who can be quiet and listen. It’s best to avoid toxic people or people who don’t understand or aren’t compassionate or comforting, while you are grieving.  Ask a friend to help you with things that you might find temporarily difficult, like grocery shopping, cooking or laundry.  Here is a link about general grief that you might find helpful: grief.

Survivors often have a hard time finding meaning in the loss. They try to find reasons why. They wonder if something could have been done to prevent what happened.  Often survivors have higher levels of guilt and blame and take on the responsibility of the loss. Many may worry if they had some part in the death. Feelings of rejection, abandonment and anger may be intense. There are many unsolved questions that may never have resolution.

You may find it helpful to plan what to say to others. So often survivors are faced with questions that are uncomfortable from outsiders. Having a plan as to  what to say to others will help you feel more prepared and in control. If someone asks details, it's perfectly fine to say, "I really prefer not to talk about it right now."  If someone who doesn't know asks how your loved one died, it is fine to say, "she took her life" or "she died by suicide.” The bottom line is you just say what you feel comfortable with. You don’t owe explanations to anyone, especially strangers and it’s perfectly okay, especially in this area, to set boundaries that you are comfortable with. Here are some links to resources that you might find helpful. Most include links to support groups.








In their return to Saddleback Church after the death of their son, Pastor Rick and Kay share the very personal story of Matthew and his battle with mental illness.