The Bereavement Councelling Service

Guides

Grieving the death by suicide of a loved one

The Bereavement Counselling Service has been helping those bereaved by suicide since its inception in 1982.

We have extensive experience in this area and, because of the devastating effect the suicide of a loved one has on those left behind, we have produced a special booklet “Grieving the Suicide of a Loved One”.

The following is a brief outline of the areas covered in this booklet.

People do not ‘get over’ grief – it has to be gone through.

It takes courage to grieve as it is often difficult and painful. You need to talk about your feelings with someone who will listen in a caring and confidential way. Try to understand that the only way to find hope for the future is to acknowledge the present pain and deal with all the conflicting emotions and feelings as they happen.

After a suicide all the normal grief feelings are heightened especially fear, guilt, rejection, worthlessness, depression and anger.

The first reactions to news of a death are usually shock, disbelief and numbness. In bereavement by suicide these feelings may last for a very long time, because on top of them you are probably feeling totally confused. It is important for you to realise that all this disturbance is not your fault.

It is a good idea to set some time aside every day – a grieving time – (when you can be alone or with your trusted friend or family member) to deal with the emotions that are troubling you. It often helps to write about these feelings.

Remind yourself that no feeling is wrong but there is a right and wrong way of dealing with it.

The question ‘why?’ is explored

You ask yourself why did he/she do it? Why did he/she do this to me? Did he/she not love me? Did he/she not feel loved? Try not to torture yourself trying to understand for the reason why they took their own lives can only be found in their thinking at the time.

Guilt can be a very destructive emotion. Ideas are given as to how you might resolve any feelings of guilt that you may have. When you have thoroughly considered them you will probably come to the conclusion that with the information you had at the time you did the best you could.

You may have strong feelings of rejection, worthlessness and shame.

You wonder why someone you loved so much did this to you. You may doubt your own values and feel that you will never trust anyone again. You feel uncomfortable in company and notice that some friends avoid you. It can be helpful to talk to someone who has been through a similar bereavement or to join a ‘bereaved by suicide’ group. As you listen to others telling of their experiences and feelings, you will probably recognise that they are not responsible for their loved one’s suicide and neither are you responsible for yours.

One of the great difficulties is how to tell others about the death.

It is better to be as honest as you can without going into details. This is especially important when telling children. Work out in your mind what you are going to say. Practice it and feel as comfortable as possible with it.

Some people try to manage their grief by blaming others.

You may find yourself lashing out in anger at those around you. Difficult though it may be, try not to blame any family member. It was the deceased’s decision to end his/her life in this way and no one else’s.

Anger is very common during grief. It is important to find constructive ways to deal with this anger so that it hurts neither you nor anyone else. Remember this will take time so be patient with yourself. Suppressed anger can destroy a person.

You may experience some of the physical symptoms associated with grief. Some of the most common are – disturbed appetite and sleep patterns, hollowness in the stomach, tightness in the chest and throat, oversensitivity to noise, breathlessness, lack of energy and pain which is often hard to describe. You may behave in an absent-minded way, have a tremendous sense of confusion and difficulty in concentrating. These are all normal and usually pass with time. Talk about them with your trusted helper and discuss ways to alleviate the discomfort they cause you. If you seek medical advice it is wise to tell of your bereavement.

The Inquest.

Many types of death must be reported to the Coroner and suicide is one of these.

The purpose of the inquest is to ascertain the identity of the deceased, when, where and how he/she died, the medical cause and mode of death. On average it could be 2-4 months before the inquest file would be ready for hearing. Inquests are held in public and witnesses and family are notified of the inquest date and venue. If you have worries before or about the Inquest, tell the Gardai and perhaps ask to see the Coroner and go over your worries with him/her. It may be possible for you to ask that the court be cleared of all but the necessary attendance.

Is it possible to recover?

It may seem impossible to believe, but you can recover from your loss. It is important for you to realise that there is no fixed time scale for the grief journey. After a lot of hard work on your part, eventually, the deep sorrow, the pain, the hopelessness and the feeling of rejection will lessen and at last finally disappear. You will not forget your loved one, he/she will live forever in your heart. Healthy grieving allows you to remember the past, live in the present and look forward to the future.

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