|Topic||Helplines and local mental health services|
|Publisher||Mental Health Foundation & Ministry of Health|
If you lose someone by suicide, you may experience all kinds of emotions and physical reactions to the stress you are under. You may feel you will never recover from the loss, and even feel you don’t know how you are going to carry on. Coming to terms with what has happened will take time.
Getting through a loss from suicide is different for everyone – even the length of grieving will differ from person to person. There’ll be good days and bad days, but gradually things will change and get easier.
Some people don’t feel comfortable in groups, or don't want to connect with others bereaved by suicide. Others find significant value in joining groups to share common hurts, experiences and emotions. Bereaved by suicide support groups (see side bar) can provide a safe environment for sharing stories of the person you have lost. They also encourage people more recently bereaved to see that their grief can become more manageable over time and suggest strategies to help.
The WAVES programme is another type of group support. It is an eight week grief education programme developed in New Zealand for adults bereaved by suicide. Its purpose is to help people learn more about grief and suicide, find meaning in their experiences, learn to manage emotions, reduce stigma and feelings of isolation, and move towards recovery and adjustment after a suicide loss. The focus of WAVES is growing through grief. WAVES programmes run at different times across Aotearoa New Zealand. For a list of current WAVES groups, see Skylight's website.
Remember that almost every feeling you have when you first lose someone is normal. However, if you do not eventually start to feel better, or you don’t feel as though you can handle things on your own, you should consider speaking to your doctor or a counsellor. Talking to someone can help you sort out your thoughts and feelings, and help to put things in perspective. Your doctor can help by recommending grief counsellors and therapists to help you work through how to come to terms with your loss.
Read more about getting help with grief on our grief and loss factsheet.
Take the time you need to make sense of what has happened, work through the grief and take care of yourself. You will most likely know what is best for you and what you need – and remember this may change over time. Some things you can do that might help are:
When someone you know has died by suicide, you might start thinking about suicide yourself. These thoughts might pass quickly, or you might have ongoing thoughts about wanting to be with the person who has died. If you are thinking a lot about suicide, and even having thoughts about taking your life, it’s very important to tell someone you trust so that you can get the help you need to feel better.
If you can’t immediately find someone you know to talk to, there are always people who are contactable by phone and who are willing, able and available 24 hours to help you.
Read more about coping with suicidal thoughts.
A death by suicide will have a big impact on close family, whānau and friends, but also on others who knew the person less well. People can become very isolated in their grief – especially when bereaved by suicide. They may experience complications like physical illness, depression, anxiety, substance abuse and suicidal thoughts.
The best way you can help someone bereaved by suicide is by listening:
Remember to take care of yourself when you are caring for others.