Healing After Suicide: Preventing, Responding to and Coping with Suicide Loss

This article is intended for mature audiences, the content discusses sensitive topics that can be triggering, such as suicide, violence and death. Tharp Funeral Home does not have a therapist on staff and this article is intended to provide general information and encourage people to reach out for support. If you are in crisis and need immediate help, please call 988.

Hope After Suicide


For most of us, this is the first thing we ask ourselves when we learn that someone ended their own life.

“…Why?” And… “What could I have done differently?”

The pain and devastation caused by grief after a suicide can be debilitating and leave us questioning everything, bearing the weight and burden of the death, and even withdrawing.

Sadly, suicides occur every single day. Over 1 million Americans attempt to take their own lives every year, and almost half of them …do.

One of the most common reasons that people commit suicide is severe depression. Other contributing factors can include those who have been abused, raped, suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, or have another serious mental illness like Bipolar Disorder. Chronic pain and illness can also be a huge contributing factor, as are substance abuse, loneliness, social isolation, or just feeling like a burden to others.

Understanding the Cycle of Depression

For those of us who have never experienced severe depression, it is a feeling of complete hopelessness and can be caused by shame, guilt, grief and loss, sadness… and in some cases neurological disorders and confusion.

Someone who is dealing with a severe mental illness like this may describe it as unpredictable,  overwhelming, and uncontrollable. It’s like being on a roller coaster ride that never stops … and they feel helpless to do anything about it. And they most certainly don’t know how to get off this awful ride.

For many with mental health struggles, their needs and behavior can be difficult to explain to the people around them, even their closest friends and family may have a hard time understanding why they behave a certain way, or simply just dismiss the situation and distance themselves.

Mental health survivors may find it difficult to navigate day-to-day life, which often results in social isolation. This can greatly affect their ability to interact with society, leading to negative consequences such as family breakdowns and difficulty maintaining employment. And the heartbreaking cycle continues.

Mental health is health.

Many mental health survivors describe the day-to-day feelings of their struggles to be like trying to keep a marble centered on a plank of wood: it takes constant attention and even the smallest of movements can cause the marble to go off-balance.

There are 79 organs in the human body, and the brain is the most complex. It’s no wonder that the internal balance can be thrown off so easily – and there are 78 other organs to interact with, not to mention gut health, and the nervous system.

It is important to recognize that mental health survivors are not “just” struggling with depression, but living with it. And suicide is an indication of how much pain and suffering they are experiencing in their lives right now, and it requires our understanding.

Left behind after suicide: recognizing the seriousness of complex grief

For those of us left behind after suicide, the healing process can be extremely difficult and complicated. The burden of guilt and questions can be overwhelming: why didn’t I notice? What could I have done differently? Will I ever get over this?

The truth is, nobody knows the answer to any of these questions. Grieving a loved one’s suicide is incredibly unique. Everyone processes loss differently. The most important thing to understand about healing after suicide is that the circumstances of the loss are going to change everything: bereavement is going to be different.

Along with the usual grief of losing someone, feelings of intense guilt, confusion, rejection, shame, and anger may also be present. These painful emotions can be made worse by the impact of stigma and trauma.

Studies have found that those who are bereaved by suicide experience higher levels of rejection, blaming, shame, stigma, and feel the need to conceal the cause of death compared to those who are bereaved by other causes of death.

The common stages of grief, including denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, may not fully encompass the unique emotional experience of losing someone to suicide.

Here’s what some mental health professionals recommend:

Allow yourself time to grieve: Healing after a loved one’s suicide takes time. There is no set timeline for grieving, and everyone processes their emotions differently. Allow yourself to feel and process your emotions at your own pace. It is normal to feel a range of emotions, including sadness, anger, guilt, and confusion. It is important to acknowledge and validate these emotions.

Seek support: It’s important to lean on family and friends for support during this difficult time. They can serve as a source of comfort and guidance. Consider joining a support group for individuals who have lost a loved one to suicide. It can be helpful to speak to others who have gone through a similar experience. If you feel overwhelmed, don’t hesitate to seek help from a mental health professional.

Take care of yourself: Self-care is crucial when dealing with grief. It is easy to forget to take care of your physical and emotional needs during this time, but it’s important to make it a priority. Make sure to get regular exercise, eat healthy foods, and get enough rest. Engage in activities that bring you joy, such as reading, painting, or spending time with friends.

Practice forgiveness and let go of guilt: After a suicide, survivors often feel guilty or blame themselves for what happened. It’s important to understand that suicide is a complex issue and that there are many factors that can contribute to it. Try to let go of any guilt or self-blame that you are carrying. Practice forgiveness, both for yourself and for your loved one.

Find meaning and purpose: In the aftermath of a suicide, it can be difficult to find meaning and purpose in life. However, finding a sense of meaning and purpose can be an integral part of the healing process. Consider volunteering, joining a cause that you are passionate about, or finding a new hobby. Finding joy and purpose can give you something positive to focus on.

What if nobody wants to talk about it?

The number of people thinking about, or actively trying to, commit suicide is not decreasing. It is more important than ever to bring the discussion about mental health out of the shadows and into everyday conversations.

If nobody wants to talk about it, start the conversation yourself and be open. Let people know you are there for them if they need someone to talk to and encourage those in your life to seek professional help if needed. You can also create a safe space by educating yourself on how to talk to people who may be dealing with depression. Encouraging messages such as “It’s OK to not be OK” and being a non-judgmental listener is crucial in reducing the negative stereotypes associated with mental health.

Getting Help for Mental Health

If you or someone you know are struggling with their mental health state, don’t wait to talk to someone. Don’t do nothing.

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s (AFSP) support group listings. Support groups are available all over the United States and are facilitated by peers who get it: https://afsp.org/find-a-support-group/.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available at 800-273-8255. If you don’t like talking on the phone, you can reach Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741-741.

BetterHelp and Talkspace are websites/apps that offer accessible therapy.

There is help out there and it’s ok to not be ok. It takes courage and strength to reach out for help, but it can make a difference in a life-or-death situation.  Being open about mental health issues and having conversations around them should no longer be seen as taboo.

If you are in crisis and need immediate help call 988.


  • https://www.verywellmind.com/why-do-people-commit-suicide-1067515
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3384446/
  • https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/suicide-rate-by-country
  • https://afsp.org/suicide-statistics/