Have You Lost Someone to Suicide?

There are places in the heart that do not yet exist; suffering has to enter in for them to come to be.

Leon Bloy

Suicide is a traumatic event. If you have lost a loved one to suicide, you are likely asking some heart-wrenching questions such as:

  • Why did this happen?
  • Why didn’t I see it coming?
  • Could I have done anything to prevent it?
  • How can I go on?”

I believe that suicide is uniquely traumatic because in our culture it is seen as going against our survival instinct. Suicide is akin to an autoimmune disease, a condition in which the immune system turns in on itself and attacks the body. In suicide, it is our brain that attacks the psyche, producing despair, hopelessness, and a desire to end emotional pain by death.

We can die by external causes, but dying by one’s own hands does not fit into the order of natural law. As a result, losing someone to suicide can be more shocking and more difficult to heal from than death from natural causes. As Carla Fine writes in her book No Time to Say Goodbye,

“More psychological distress is experienced by family members following death by suicide than death by natural causes. Heightened anger directed at the deceased and guilt for not having been able to prevent the death, as well as true clinical depression, are more likely to occur and persist.”

The Alliance of Hope, a site for those who have lost someone to suicide, explains that suicide is like a “grenade going off within a family or community” leaving a wake of devastation. Many painful emotions come up, and if the suicide of your loved one happened recently, you might be experiencing grief that feels overwhelming.

The Alliance of Hope lists the following experiences associated with the trauma of losing someone to suicide. Take some time to reflect on each of them and see if you can identify any you are experiencing:

  • Distressing recollections of the death
  • Distressing dreams about the event
  • A feeling of reliving the experience
  • Feeling numb
  • Feeling emotionally detached from other people
  • Always feeling “on guard”
  • Difficulty working 
  • Difficulty in social situations
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Irritability or outbursts of anger
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Hyper-vigilance

“In the links below, you will find the stories of people who have lost loved ones to suicide, as well as information on how to find support after a suicide loss”