Feelings after a suicide

Every suicide affects many people: family members, friends, co-workers and the community.

If someone you have known has taken his or her life, you will be affected and can be at risk of suicide yourself. This could be:

  • partner
  • friend
  • fellow ex-service person
  • parent
  • child
  • sibling
  • fellow service personnel, or
  • anyone else in your community

After a suicide

Following a death by suicide, many grief responses are significantly intensified and may be overwhelming.

You may be experiencing a range of difficult emotions such as shock, disbelief or even anger alongside many unanswered questions including ‘could I have done anything to prevent it?’ and ‘why did he/she do it?’

It is important to know that these types of emotions and thoughts are normal grief reactions and are very common amongst people bereaved by suicide. Grieving in response to a suicide requires a big adjustment to life and is different for everyone. It is a difficult process to adapt to the changes you must face in your life, your hopes, your thoughts, your future and your beliefs. Grief is a healthy part of the healing process not a sign of weakness. As the grieving process is worked through, the intensity of grief will lessen. At this stage it is important for you to understand your emotions.


Learning about the death of a loved one by suicide can often leave somebody in a state of shock. This shock can be intensified by the trauma of witnessing the suicide or finding the body.

Shock can also affect people physically through symptoms such as nausea, sleeping difficulties, chest pain, shaking, stomach pain, and breathlessness. Should you suffer from any of these symptoms see your local GP.

Grief and loss

Grief is the normal and natural response to loss and can affect every part of your life after a person close to you has suicided. Feelings associated with grief and loss vary and you may experience sadness, anger, anxiety, shock, panic, relief, numbness or guilt. Whilst these feelings can be frightening and overwhelming they are normal reactions to loss. Accepting them as part of the grieving process is necessary for healing.


People who are bereaved by suicide can experience feelings of guilt and a sense of failure that they could not prevent the suicide. You might worry about not having picked up on suicidal behaviours or warning signs. It is important to remember that it is always easier to recognise a person’s distress in hindsight, and that the level of support you offered to them was based on the understanding you had of their situation at that time.

When someone is at the point of suicide, they are usually unable to think clearly and rationally and are unlikely to be able to express their true thoughts and feelings. Suicide notes may blame someone for their suicide but are usually written at a time when the person is feeling desperate.

No one is responsible for someone else’s decision to take their own life.


The question ‘why’ is one that can haunt people bereaved by suicide and in most cases, it can never truly be resolved.

It is difficult not being able to understand why the person has taken his or her life. Even if you were aware of the problems and difficulties that the person was experiencing, it is difficult to understand why they felt that taking their life was their only answer.

Blame from others

Being subjected to blame for a suicide by family members or friends can be distressing.  At a time when you need support, you may actually find yourself feeling isolated. For some people, blaming others is their way of dealing with grief. It might help to understand that these people are suffering from pain as well and they may be trying to protect themselves from further pain.


It is normal to feel angry with the person who suicided as their decision to leave has caused a lot of pain, however this reaction can be confusing. You might find yourself blaming someone else or those you believe could have contributed to the suicide. You may also feel angry with yourself for not preventing the suicide. Denying your anger can be far more damaging than letting yourself express it. Finding a way to do so in a safe and non destructive way is important. Talking about it can help as does participating in physical activities such as walking or playing sport.

Stress, anxiety and depression

Sometimes, people who are bereaved by suicide can suffer stress, anxiety or post-traumatic stress symptoms. This is a reaction to the traumatic event of suicide. You may have difficulty sleeping, concentrating, experience nightmares, feel panicky or not want to be alone. You may feel that there is no longer any point to life without the deceased or that you are to blame for the suicide and don’t deserve to be happy. You may feel rejected by the deceased or other people you’re close to. Loneliness can add to your grief.

Occasionally this stress and anxiety can develop into a more severe condition called post-traumatic stress disorder. You may also experience depression as a result of the suicide. People bereaved by suicide can be at higher risk of suicide themselves. Relatives and friends might not be able offer the support you need. If you are concerned about any of these feelings or your anxiety level see your GP or a mental health specialist.


There can be stigma attached when a death is the result of suicide. You may not be sure of what to tell people for fear that others will judge you or the deceased. Your own acceptance of the person’s choice to suicide can help to relieve feelings of shame. It is important to speak with others who share this acceptance.

What can I do about these feelings?

  • Connect with family, friends, or others who are also coping with the effects of the suicide.
  • Be patient with yourself as you grieve. Don’t expect too much from yourself too quickly.
  • Try to maintain a normal schedule.
  • Look after yourself by eating well, getting enough sleep and exercising.
  • Join a support group for other people who have been bereaved by suicide.
  • Write down your feelings in a journal.
  • Engage in activities you enjoy to refresh yourself.

What is not helpful

  • working too much
  • withdrawing from family and friends
  • not looking after your health and wellbeing
  • using alcohol or drugs to ‘cope’
  • engaging in risky behaviours
  • blaming yourself or others

Suicide bereavement response services and support groups (postvention services)