Many people who die by suicide will do so without notice, with some survivors finding a note of explanation, while others let their deaths remain a mystery. Some people who die by suicide have an identifiable mental health issue, while others don't. Some might give their loved ones a warning of what they're about to do, and some don't. Like each individual, suicide is different in each case.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What Does It Feel Like to Lose a Friend to Suicide?
- How to Cope After You Lost a Friend to Suicide
- How to Help a Grieving Loved One Who Lost a Friend to Suicide
The decision to kill oneself can sometimes be just minutes or hours before death. Unfortunately, a close friend’s death by suicide may leave you asking many questions on top of coping with loneliness after their death.
Many people have experienced losing a loved one’s death to suicide, but the topic continues to be an incredibly taboo subject in our society. No one wants to talk about losing a friend to suicide.
What Does It Feel Like to Lose a Friend to Suicide?
After the suicide death of a friend, you can expect to feel completely shattered. You may find it hard to believe that your loved one's gone. And, it'll be challenging to accept that they're no longer here.
Anytime someone you know dies a traumatic death, they might leave you trying to piece together the manner of death to find a reason why this tragedy happened. A suicide death is especially traumatic when it happens unexpectedly and without warning. Traumatic death is typically defined as one that’s sudden, untimely, violent, or regarded as preventable.
When a loved one dies by suicide, survivors tend to think they were somehow responsible for their loved one's death. They may blame themselves for missing the warning signs or by thinking that they could’ve prevented their loved one's death. Others may believe that their friend’s manner of death was unfair and unjust and will spend months looking for someone or something to blame.
It’s also not uncommon to retrace your steps to analyze everything that's happened. You may find yourself questioning all that could've gone wrong or if you might've missed any silent cries for help.
Survivor experiences that are common to a death by suicide include feelings of blame. Those left behind are at greater risk for developing post-traumatic stress disorder especially if they witnessed their loved one's death or if they found the body. Those images are hard to erase from the mind. Witnesses tend to relive the experience for the rest of their lives.
Traumatic death has the potential to cause compounded grief when combined with past unresolved trauma or grief. Some examples of the effects of compounded grief include:
- Repeatedly reliving the suicide in your memory
- Having shattered views of the world and others
- Feeling guilty
- Feeling regret
- Experiencing grief-avoidance
- Having depressing thoughts and feelings
- Avoiding memories of your loved one
A person dealing with this type of loss may take years to heal from the stress and anxiety caused by their loved one's death.
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How to Cope After You Lost a Friend to Suicide
Coping after you’ve lost a friend to suicide is one of the most challenging things you’ll have to endure. It can be hard to accept your new reality, especially without fully understanding why your friend decided to end their life. The following are ways to deal with your struggle to understand and find meaning in their death.
1. Accept your emotions
The thought of your friend being gone can seem wrong and untrue. You may struggle with feeling extremely angry while also feeling sad that they’re gone. These feelings and emotions are a normal part of the grieving process and are temporary.
You may have to accept that your feelings and emotions can go up and down like a roller coaster for many months following their death. Some days you’ll be more up than others. In time, you’ll start to make sense of your loss and will begin the healing process.
2. Join a support group
Trying to make sense of your friend’s death might escape you for the first few weeks or months following their death. Some people may never fully accept or recognize a loved one’s decision to end their life.
Getting the support you need following this type of loss is crucial to understanding and healing. Those who can be of help are typically those who’ve been through this experience. Support groups make up a community of people who’ve experienced a similar loss. They give you access to people who understand are available to listen and share their experiences with you.
3. Take care of yourself
Survivors of suicide death are often in desperate need to find someone to blame for their loved one’s death. Anyone who’s ever lost someone to suicide will experience either self-blame or the need to blame others. However, usually, there isn’t anything anyone could’ve done to prevent the death.
Survivors need to take care of themselves, especially during the first few weeks following the death to have the strength required to move past their pain and suffering.
Things contributing to a healthy recovery from grief include getting enough sleep, proper nutrition, and exercise. These things, when combined, improve mood and health in general.
4. Talk to someone
The search for missing pieces of the puzzle in what could've gone wrong can lead survivors of suicide death to reel for answers. Talking about your deceased loved one, and the feelings that come from losing them are essential parts of grieving a loved one's loss to suicide. Speaking to someone who cares, listens, and understands is critical to the healing process.
Participating in both online therapy sessions and support groups is vital for healing when your best friend dies. It's necessary to your overall well-being to find someone you're comfortable with to talk about what you're going through.
5. Memorialize them
To help yourself heal, find ways to give meaning to and honor your friend’s life. Not many people like to talk about suicide in our society. Many people will go to great lengths to avoid talking about a suicide death and withdraw from these conversations or pretend that it never happened.
As a result, it may be challenging to openly discuss what’s happened at the funeral or memorial service. Consider bringing awareness to mental health issues and suicide-related death to outside groups as a way to help memorialize your friend’s legacy.
6. Seek therapy
Getting therapy may be one of the best decisions to make when you need help getting back on your feet following your friend’s suicide. Online therapy and counseling services are there to support you when things get rough and you’re unable to manage your grief on your own.
A therapist or counselor can help you to come to terms with the fact that despite all of your efforts to fix what was wrong in your friend’s life, there’s nothing that could have changed the outcome. A trained professional can help you express your feelings and ultimately accept your loss.
How to Help a Grieving Loved One Who Lost a Friend to Suicide
Grief is not a straight road to healing from your pain and suffering. Grief isn’t linear, as the stages of grief may lead you to believe. When grieving the loss of a loved one to suicide, not everything is tidy, nor does it follow an expected path to healing. Grief rarely ever happens this way.
You can expect to feel pain and a profound sense of loss for months following their death. This is a normal part of the grieving process, especially when you lose someone to suicide. Here are some ideas on how to help someone you know and love deal with their friend’s suicide death:
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1. Acknowledge their loss
Talking openly and directly about their friend’s suicide death is crucial in helping someone grieving this type of death. Often, no one wants to acknowledge the cause of death related to suicide, making it difficult to accept that it happened. Let your friend know that you’re open to talking about what’s happened by using the word suicide in your conversations with them.
For example, you can start with the words, “I heard that your friend died by suicide. I’m sorry about your loss. I know it must be a difficult time for you.” Having a conversation with open and honest dialogue like this can let your friend know that you’re open to talking about their loss.
2. Offer support
One of the kindest things you can do for someone you love is to be there for them in their most profound time of need. You can expect that your loved one may be suffering from a deep sense of loss and loneliness due to their friend's suicide. Being there for them and offering a shoulder to lean on, especially during the first few days and weeks following their friend's death, may prove essential.
Grief is an individual experience, and not everyone will experience the same symptoms during their bereavement. You can expect your friend to need someone to talk to who'll listen without judgment. They may also need some advice or practical help to get them through this challenging time.
3. Ask them how they’re doing
Showing concern for your friend’s well-being following the suicide death of one of their loved ones can be very healing for them. Knowing that you care for them and have a genuine concern for their well-being may be comforting to them. As a result, they may be more willing to open up to you to discuss what they're going through.
4. Read about suicide-related death
Getting informed about what happens after losing someone to suicide can prepare you to understand and help someone experiencing this type of loss. You can pass along the information you learn to your friend to help them make sense of their loss.
Losing someone to suicide can be a terrifying and isolating experience. The more you know about suicide, the more information you’ll be able to share with your friend.
Making Sense of Suicide
Suicide is still very much stigmatized in our society, making it difficult to talk about and accept. Even though this is changing, grieving a suicide loss can still be an isolating experience.
Survivors may be experiencing confusion and self-blame following their loved one’s death, and recovering from their grief may take longer than other types of death. Though it may take a while to come to terms with their loss, time is the greatest healer.