There is no timetable on grief, so it’s impossible to say how long it will take for your life to begin to feel normal again.
There may be times when it feels like nothing will ever be right again, but try to remind yourself that this feeling is not forever. You will recover, it just takes time.
It’s hard to be patient with recovery, especially as life keeps moving on around you and pressuring you to continue as normal, but you deserve the time to heal and adjust from this traumatic loss, so allow yourself the time and space to do so.
There are, however, some things you can do to aid in your recovery process and ensure you are on the best possible path toward healing:
It may feel as though there’s nothing a therapist could tell you that you don’t already know, but therapists do a lot more than just talk. A good therapist can:
Professional help won’t cure your grief, but it can help you feel like you have more control over where the grief is taking you.
Because suicide is unfortunately so common, there are many survivors who are going through something very similar to you.
Finding a support group will help you to connect with them. Like therapy, this can give you a forum to work through complicated feelings—but more importantly it can help you feel less alone in what you’re going through.
Support groups are excellent, but it is also a good idea to form a tighter circle of support with those who are grieving the same person you are.
With this group you can share more specific feelings about the situation, as well as find positive ways to honor your loved one together.
Eventually you may find yourself laughing together over happy memories of the person, which is a huge and important step on the road to recovery.
Some people are able to find a greater sense of peace and understanding through personal faith practices.
Whether it’s organized religion or general spiritual practices, finding spiritual meaning in life and death can be hugely beneficial.
However, be aware that some religious belief systems condemn suicide as a sin.
Carefully consider whether these beliefs will aid in your recovery or if another faith would prove more forgiving and uplifting.
As time goes on, you may find that birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays are especially difficult. During these times, it can be helpful for you and other loved ones to find special ways to honor the person you lost.
These can be small acts, like sharing stories on holidays, or larger things, like celebrating their birthday. Mark the occasion with whatever feels right.
Beginning new traditions is a good way to keep your loved one close to you even as your lives begin to move forward without them.
Above all, community and connection are what will be most helpful in getting you through this time.
Resist the urge to disconnect from others. Do what you can to reach out. Be sure to accept the help of those who are reaching out to you.
There are a lot of other people going through the same tragedy as you, and you can support one another through this difficult journey.
There are also likely people who care about you that aren’t connected to the tragedy who you can lean on.
Even if you aren’t looking for someone to console you, sometimes finding distractions from the pain can be helpful in allowing yourself the space to heal.
In the wake of a suicide, there is often an increase in suicidal thoughts and impulses in loved ones as well. Often, these thoughts are a result of your brain trying to cope with the loss. It can become a genuine risk—particularly among families and friend groups with high rates of mental illness.
To kep everyone safe, have a close community of survivors and encourage everyone to be open with their feelings, especially about suicidal thoughts.
The more your community unites to support and protect each other, the better the chance of preventing this tragedy from happening again.
Your grief may have you feeling a little stuck in time right now—unable to move forward in any meaningful way. As time passes this will begin to ease and you will find yourself beginning to move on.
When the forward motion starts again, it is an instinct for some to try to hang onto their grief out of a sense of duty to the person they lost, or fear that letting go will mean forgetting.
The idea of truly moving on can be scary. If you’re struggling with the transition, volunteering your time to a cause dedicated to preventing suicide and supporting survivors like you can help to ease some of the guilt and fear.
Working to do some good in the name of your lost loved one serves as an excellent bridge to carrying on with your life while still keeping their memory with you.
There may still be bumpy roads ahead. Grief is complicated and can come in spurts and waves, but as you start feeling a little more whole give yourself permission to begin living again.
Little by little, life and joy will return to you, and though the ache may not ever fully go away, things will get better.
Suicide leaves deep wounds in families and communities. The scars will always be there. However, with time and support, you will be able to reclaim happiness for yourself and begin living again.
There is no right answer for how you should be feeling following the suicide of someone close to you.
Grief is complex, and it’s rare that any two people will experience it in the same way.
Just know that whatever you’re feeling is okay.
Some of the most common emotions people report feeling when coping with a loved one’s suicide include:
Especially in the early aftermath, it’s common for people to feel numb, disconnected, and distracted. This shock may last for a long time. You may feel a sense of detachment from reality until you are better able to process what happened.
Depression following a traumatic loss can be almost identical to the symptoms of clinical depression. There may be a lack of energy and motivation, difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite, and overwhelming sadness.
This may ease with time, but in some cases it can mark the onset of an ongoing depressive disorder.
Our brains often try to find someone to blame to protect us from the impact of a loss.
You may be angry at yourself or another loved one for not noticing or acting sooner, or at whatever systems you believe failed the victim.
You may even feel angry at the deceased person for abandoning you or for upending your life with their decision.
If the suicide took place after a long and difficult struggle with mental or chronic physical illness, you may feel a sense of relief that it’s over—particularly if their illness put frequent strain on their relationships.
This is more common than you think, and a lot of people experience this, but you may begin to feel like you’re a uniquely bad person for feeling this way.
This can easily cycle into guilt.
You may begin to convince yourself that you secretly wanted the victim to be gone or feel selfish for your relief over not having to care for them or manage their difficult emotions anymore.
Human relationships are complicated, as is grief, so try to remember that you are not the first person to ever feel this way. Relief does not mean that you’re happy they’re gone, just that you wish something could have been different while they were still around.
Loss can often feel senseless, and so you may fall into a cycle of “if only” to find reason for what happened. Guilt can also result from any other emotion you may find yourself feeling...
Guilt is complex and is perhaps the most common feeling for close loved ones of a suicide victim to experience.
You may experience one of these feelings overwhelmingly throughout your grieving process, or perhaps all of them in some capacity at different times. You may also be feeling something entirely different from any of these.
However your grief is manifesting, there is no wrong way to feel at a time like this. More importantly, you are likely not the only one feeling this way.
People tend to mask when they are feeling something they believe to be inappropriate for the situation, but if you are feeling confusion, guilt, and anger at this tragedy, it’s likely another loved one is struggling with the same feelings.
It may be helpful to talk to others who are experiencing this loss with you. Some may need more space to process their feelings on their own, but others can benefit greatly from sharing their feelings with each other and holding space for whatever emotions are brought to the table.
Finding solidarity in the way that you are grieving can make the process feel a lot less lonely.
Survivors often end up torturing themselves trying to understand why their loved one chose to end their life. It’s very easy to get caught up in replaying the last interactions you had with a person before their suicide to dig out clues that might help make sense of it.
The truth of the matter is that suicide is complicated with no singular explanation for why it happens.
However, a framing that may help it to settle a little better in your mind is this: At the end of all things, your loved one died of an illness.
Most, if not all, victims of suicide were suffering from an acute mental illness. Mental illness causes the chemicals and neurotransmitters in the brain to malfunction in ways they are unable to control.
It was their illness that caused them to feel the compulsion to end their life.
A huge factor of mental illnesses like Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia, and others are that they fundamentally distort a person’s perception.
In their book After Suicide Loss: Coping With Your Grief, Psychologists Bob Baugher and Jack Jordan explain:
“Medical research is also demonstrating that major psychiatric disorders involve changes in the functioning of the brain that can severely alter the thinking, mood, and behavior of someone suffering from the disorder…
The illness produces biological changes in the individual that create emotional and physical pain (depression, inability to take pleasure in things, hopelessness, etc.) which contribute to almost all suicides.”
Often people who suffer with suicidal ideation don’t actually want to die, they simply want the anguish or emptiness that their brain is inflicting on them to stop, and for some, death feels like the only way out.
It may feel like the only thing they can control in a situation that feels fully out of their control.
Mental illness is treatable just as any mental illness is treatable—but some people still succumb to their cancer even with treatment, while others recover and go on to live a full life.
Your loved one did not choose to become ill, and they would not have chosen to end their life had their illness not been pushing them to do so.
You do not need to wonder why their friends and family weren’t enough to keep them around, or why they would want to give up on whatever promising future they may have had. Illness does not have a sense of any of those things—and in the end, their illness is what ended their life.
Understanding this will not make the loss hurt any less, but it may help to reconcile some of the confusion so you can grieve a little more peacefully.
An unfortunate inevitability following a suicide is that you will probably have to tell a lot of people the news about what happened.
By this point you’ve likely already gone through the difficult process of informing immediate family members and friends.
However, it may also fall on you to inform the victim’s employer, teachers, or extended family who may have been out of the direct loop about why your loved one is no longer around. These can be emails if you are not feeling up to calling, and the messages can be direct and brief.
What may be more difficult to handle are conversations with members of your extended community.
In the aftermath of any premature death, people outside of the deceased person’s direct social circle will always want to know what happened. Obituaries often leave out the cause of death, so there will be a lot of questions.
Approach these discussions however you need to.
Many survivors find it helpful to just be straightforward with anyone who asks, but you are not obligated to be. Do not feel as though you are being difficult or unpleasant if you need to tell someone you don’t want to discuss it.
If they were not close to the victim, then all they truly need to know is that the person died.
People will be curious, but they are not owed your limited emotional energy.
Become comfortable with saying no.