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Dealing with grief after losing someone by suicide

If you lose someone by suicide you may experience a range of different emotions


Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in health


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Having a tough time and need to talk? Text SPUNOUT to 086 1800 280 to chat anonymously with a trained volunteer. Standard text rates may apply.

If someone close to you dies by suicide, it is a tragic loss and you are likely to experience a range of difficult emotions when dealing with your personal grief. Everyone experiences grief differently and you have every right to feel upset, hurt, angry and any other emotions you may experience as you process your own feelings. The grief that you may experience after someone dies by suicide can be different than the grief you might feel were someone to die after an illness or in an unexpected accident. If someone close to you has died by suicide, remember you are not alone. There are supports available to help you and those close to you while dealing with your immediate grief and there after.

Ways to cope when you lose someone by suicide

Dealing with feelings of anger

If someone close to you dies by suicide, you may experience a range of emotions including anger. You may feel anger towards the person who has died, yourself, those close to you, or mental health services if you feel that there was not enough done to help the person before they died. Feeling angry is natural, but holding onto anger over a long period of time can have a seriously negative impact on your mental health. It is important to try and look after yourself while dealing with your grief. If you are experiencing intense feelings of anger you should speak to someone about it.

Dealing with feelings of shock/disbelief

It may be difficult to come to terms with the reality that someone you loved has died by suicide, especially if you had no previous knowledge that they had suicidal thoughts or were experiencing mental health difficulties. It may be tough to understand how someone close to you could be feeling a certain way without you being aware of it or to understand why they didn’t ask you for help.

It may take a long time for you to come to terms with the reality of what has happened and there is no time frame in which you have to deal with your grief. It is important to remember that everyone grieves in their own way and that you are not expected to feel a certain way after a certain about of time. Speaking to someone about how you are feeling and what you are experiencing can help to process what has happened and come to terms of living without the person.

Dealing with feelings of guilt

You may experience feelings of guilt if someone close to you dies by suicide. Feelings of guilt can come from questioning what could have been done to prevent the death, or from feeling like you were unaware of the struggle that the person was experiencing.

It is important to remember that no one thing caused the person you know to die by suicide. People die by suicide for many different reasons and you should not feel that you are to blame for the person's death. It is also important not to blame others around you for the death of the person you knew. Those who were close to the person will be experiencing grief too, and where possible, you should try to lean on each other for support while dealing with your loss and grief.

Dealing with feelings of numbness

If someone close to you dies by suicide you may experience feelings of numbness. Feeling numb can mean that you don’t experience sadness, happiness or any other emotion, but instead feel nothing about the situation. You may not feel able to process what has happened, or you might feel confused because it seems so hard to understand how or why it has. 

Feeling numb can also be a protective response. This is because it feels so overwhelming to try and process and understand what has happened that the only way you can cope with it is by emotionally shutting off. This can be an understandable short terms response but will not be helpful for you long term.

If you are feeling numb you should speak to a professional about how you are feeling. It is understandable if you feel unmotivated or do not want to speak to anyone, but for your own care and mental health it is important that you do. You do not have to feel alone while experiencing your grief because there are supports available to help. If you are worried about speaking to a professional, ask a friend or family member to go with you or help you book an appointment.

Dealing with feelings of rejection

You may experience feelings of rejection or of being abandoned if someone close to you dies by suicide. Thoughts such as how could a person leave you or not think about you may make you question the relationship that you had with the person. Having feelings and thoughts like this is completely understandable but it is important to remember that the thought process of a person before they die by suicide may not necessarily clear, simple, or rational, although they may feel that it is. 

People who die by suicide have loved and cared for the people around them and taking their own life is not a reflection on their feelings or commitment to the people closest to them. Speaking to someone who was also close to the person who died about times you shared together can be of help. It can let you to focus on the positives from the relationship and remind you of the love that the person had for you.

Recognising your own emotions

When dealing with grief you will more than likely experience a range of emotions and it is okay to recognise that you do not have to feel sad or angry all the time. There may be points when you can laugh and have fun as usual but then may experience grief later in the day. You don't have to grieve a certain way to 'pay respect' or prove how properly sad you are. It's okay if in time you are grieving less. That doesn't mean you care about the person any less, or do not still miss and think about them. It can be a positive sign that you are dealing with your grief in a healthy way.

After time you may get to a stage where you accept what has happened. Accepting does not necessarily mean you have moved past the grief, don't miss the person or that you don't still feel sad or angry about your loss. Acceptance means that you acknowledge was has happened, are able to accept the emotions that come with it, and feel able to cope a bit better to continue on with your own life as well.

Supporting loved ones

If someone close to you dies by suicide you may have to support other people who are experiencing the loss with you also. It can be difficult if a family member or close friend dies by suicide as it can affect many people within a family and a community. Allowing yourself to be open about your grief and how you are feeling can be of benefit to others going through the same process. If you feel that you are not able to support someone while they are grieving this is also completely fine, as you have a lot to deal with yourself.

Finding support

There are support services available around Ireland for people who are dealing with the death of a loved one who has died by suicide

Samaritans

  • Samaritans offer a confidential service where you can speak openly about issues you may be facing
  • Call Freephone: 116 123
  • Text: 087 260 90 90 (standard text rates apply)
  • Email: jo@samaritans.ie

Childline

  • Childline offers text message and instant messaging support
  • These services allow you to talk with a counsellor about anything and receive support or help with whatever is worrying you at the moment
  • Whatever is said on the instant messaging service is confidential - so it will stay between you and Childline
  • Childline text and instant messaging services are available from 10am-4pm, and their phone line 1800 66 66 66 is 24 hours
  • Text 'Talk' to 50101 to talk to a trained counsellor by text message

Pieta House

  • Pieta House offers specialised bereavement services to clients who have experienced grief due to suicide
  • Pieta House currently offers 24/7 support through SMS text messages, text 'Help' to 51444 to get started (standard text messaging rates apply)
  • You can also email them 24/7 by sending a message to mary@pieta.ie. Response time for emails can vary

There are many other support services around the country for both people dealing with suicidal thoughts and those supporting them. If you visit our Find Help section you search by services and location to find suicide support groups in your local area.

Having a tough time and need to talk? Text SPUNOUT to 086 1800 280 to chat anonymously with a trained volunteer. Standard text rates may apply.

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Published Sep­tem­ber 9th2019
Can this be improved? Contact editor@spunout.ie if you have any suggestions for this article.

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