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Fact Sheet

After someone ends their life by suicide: how you might feel


Questions you might ask after someone has committed suicide

If someone you love has taken his or her life, you might be feeling devastated. You could be feeling shock, disbelief and horror. You might be asking yourself: Why did they do it? Could I have prevented it?

All these and so many other emotions can overwhelm you, leaving you hurt, helpless and confused. At times you might even question whether you’re going crazy. You may wonder whether you are the only person in the world experiencing such trauma. All these thoughts are very normal.

But you are not alone. Many people before you have faced the same crisis.

When someone takes their own life, it can deeply affect not only the closest family and friends, but it also brings pain to more distant relatives and acquaintances, like grandparents, cousins, friends, teachers and co-workers.

Why didn’t I see it coming?

You might be saying to yourself: I’ve known this person for so long. I should have seen it coming.

Changes in a person’s behavior leading up to a death from suicide are often gradual. It can be extremely difficult to identify them and to recognize the point when they become significant.

Once a person has made up his or her mind to do this, they might go to considerable lengths to conceal their distress and plans from loved ones. Even doctors and mental health professionals who specialize in this field can have difficulty seeing the warning signs.

It’s possible to survive

Many people feel such intense emotional pain after the suicide of a loved one that they wonder whether they can survive.  These feelings can sometimes be so intense that you might want to take your own life. If you feel this way, it is best to talk about your feelings with someone you trust. You can always call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to speak with a trained volunteer who will listen and understand what you are going through.

You might find it hard to believe now, but your grief will not always feel like this. Grief changes as you work through it, and you’ll be able to feel more comfortable with your loss. If you choose to, you might grow as a person from the experience and integrate what happened into your life.

What to tell others

Many people find it extremely difficult to tell others the truth about the cause of their loved one’s death. They might be tempted to give other reasons. This strategy can seem to ease the initial feelings you might have like embarrassment but in the long run though, it adds to the stress because you might feel like you have to keep the lie going. When the truth eventually comes out, it can also be hard to explain the original deception.

You might find yourself in the position to have to tell people about your loved one’s death, which is a very difficult task regardless of the reason for his/her death. It might be easier to tell a number of people at once. It’s also best to give a simple statement. Try not to go into too many details.


The information provided here is an extract from the book After Suicide: Help For the Bereaved by Sheila Clark. Published in 1995 by Hill of Content Publishing Company Pty Ltd, Melbourne 3000.

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  • avatar2

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    I have been feeling so horrible for the past week… One of my friends took his life recently… And I have a friend who has suicidal thoughts constantly… I’m really worried about her doing the same thing… I just don’t know what to do anymore…

    • avatar1

      Reply - Quote


      Hey, it’s great that you’re so supportive of your friend during her hard time.  It’s important to remember that it’s ok to ask for help, and to let someone know what she’s going through, if it will ultimately help her.  Is there someone you could talk to about it?  A school counselor, a parent, another trusted adult?  Also, this can be so hard on YOU, and it’s important that you reach out for help when you need it, as well. You can always call the helpline Your Life Your Voice at 1-800-448-3000, and talk to them about what’s going on.  The helpline is run by Boys Town, and it’s for everyone, and available 24/7.  And don’t forget that if things get to the point of an emergency, you should just pick up the phone and call 911.

      Take care,
      The ReachOut Crew

  • avatar2

    Reply - Quote


    I feel this every day. My 14 year old brother took his life two months ago. Everything is just so hard.

    • avatar1

      Reply - Quote


      We’re very sorry for your loss and hope that there’s someone in your life who is being loving and supportive during this difficult time for you. Remember, if you need someone to talk to, don’t hesitate about calling the Boys Town Hotline at 1-800-448-3000.

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