Parent comforting grieving daughter after a suicide

You need to take care of yourself after a suicide

The suicide of a friend, family member or even an acquaintance is often deeply shocking. After the initial disbelief (or possible trauma), you will probably start to experience strong or unfamiliar feelings. These thoughts and emotions can be very intense and may even feel confusing or contradictory.

These feelings are a normal part of grieving. Grief is a highly personal and painful experience — but it is part of how people deal with situations like suicide and loss.

You might decide that you need to make some changes in your life — about yourself, your relationships, or how you see or approach certain things. You may have questions about your beliefs or the direction that your life is taking, or these things may even be intensified.

Thoughts like “Why did this happen?”, “I should have seen it coming” or “I / he / she / they / should have done more” are common. So too are feelings of guilt, disbelief, anger, shame and blame. You may also have unanswered questions.

You may even go through intense changes in how you feel, such as longer periods of sadness followed by bursts of acceptance.


Self-care after someone’s suicide

The intense emotions and deep shock and sadness that people feel after the suicide of a friend or loved one are understandably a difficult time.

It can be, quite simply, overwhelming. You may feel like you are having trouble coping. For this reason it is important to take care of yourself during this time.

If you’ve been affected by a suicide, here are some things to remember when taking care of yourself.


Look after your physical health

Try to eat properly, get enough sleep and keep active to maintain your wellbeing. Even small amounts of regular exercise can help your mental health.

While you are grieving you may have trouble sleeping. While there may be a range of factors behind this, small steps like going to bed at a regular time and doing calming exercises like mindfulness can improve sleep.


Let good people into your life

Try to surround yourself with nurturing people, and make time for yourself when you need it. Suicide affects everyone around them. Dealing with it takes time, but having others around to help you through can benefit you.


And let them know how to talk about it

Friends and family may want to talk to you about the suicide or help you with your grief. However, they may not know how to begin. Help them help you by talking to them about how you’re feeling at each stage of the grieving process. Let them know what’s important to you and what things may help. You can even tell them how to start the conversation.


Be prepared for anniversaries and other reminders

Be prepared for anniversaries or other significant events. Plan to spend time with a friend or family member during these difficult times. Birthdays, Fathers / Mothers days and holiday festivities can be tough reminders, so try to plan ahead on how and where you’re going to spend these times.


Rituals and little ceremonies can help

Using rituals can help with grieving. This happens by marking significant occasions and commemorating the life of the person who died.

A ritual can be a simple thing like lighting a candle, listening to special music or songs, reading poems, looking at photos, or creating a memory book/box. Consider doing it as a group so that you can share  and ‘feel’ the experience together.


Need help? You can find support services in northern Queensland or complete a self-administered K10 test for depression and anxiety. You can also join the online mental health forum to talk with like-minded people.