Surviving A Loved One’s Suicide

My father committed suicide in March of 1982 after struggling with depression, which was triggered by the loss of his job, for about three years. He was seeing a psychiatrist and was on medication, but this didn’t prevent him from taking to his bed and shutting himself up alone in his room day and night.

My mother tried to help him by dragging him out of bed, but in the end, it was no use. He overdosed with his own depression medication.

I was 19.

And I wasn’t surprised at his death.

My reaction was to become involved with a boy I’d loved since I was old enough to talk, my brother’s best friend. The joy of my first love relationship took some of the pain out of the loss of my father. In a way, I was substituting this boy, who was actually 26, for my father.

The relationship was rocky and lasted about three years. In the end, I broke it off, knowing that if I stayed with this guy, I’d never “grow up.” My relationship with the man had stalled my grieving process, because my boyfriend was actually substituting for a father figure.

My belief is that with suicide you’re never really done grieving. The loss is so huge and so pointless that no one ever gets over it.

You’ve got the grief that comes with a death, but it’s much worse because the death could have been prevented. There’s a lot of regret and remorse mixed in with the mourning. Of course, one misses the deceased at the natural times one would rely on the person. For instance, when I finally married at 34, after suffering my own mental breakdown and subsequent bipolar disorder, I missed my father because I needed him to walk me down the aisle. My two brothers ended up escorting me, but it wasn’t the same.

Other times I miss my father are when I’m playing with my adopted son. My father would have loved Tommy, and I’m sad because Tommy doesn’t have his maternal grandfather. But again, one really misses the deceased for the rest of one’s life. And the pain surfaces when you least expect it. (The pain does get easier to take, but it is always with you.)
So how do you deal with the loss of someone close due to suicide?

Talk to people

Simply talking to people about your loss can help. One anniversary of my father’s suicide, we sat around and reminisced about the good things about my father. Just remembering how he liked to eat two ham sandwiches and potato salad on Saturdays made us all feel better.

Read books

A quick look at reveals these books that deal with surviving the loss of someone close due to suicide:

  1. “Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide,” by Kay Redfield Jamison
  2. “No Time to Say Goodbye: Surviving The Suicide Of A Loved One,” by Carla Fine
  3. “Why People Die by Suicide,” by Thomas Joiner
  4. “Silent Grief: Living in the Wake of Suicide,” by Christopher Lukas and Henry M. Seiden
  5. “Suicide Index: Putting My Father’s Death in Order, by Joan Wickersham
  6. “Aftershock: Help, Hope, and Healing in the Wake of Suicide,” by Arrington Cox, Candy David, David Cox, and Candy Arrington
  7. “Grieving a Suicide: A Loved One’s Search for Comfort, Answers & Hope,” by Albert Y. Hsu
  8. “Healing After the Suicide of a Loved One,” by Ann Smolin and John Guinan

Watch movies about suicide

(The following movies are, for the most part, sad movies or have sad elements to them. Be sure to be in a relatively “good” mood when viewing them. You don’t want them to bring you down; you want them to help you understand suicide and the loss it brings.)
“Romeo and Juliet”
“Ordinary People”
“The Virgin Suicides”
“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”
“Harold and Maude”
“Dead Poet’s Society”
“Scent of a Woman”
“The Hours”
“It’s a Wonderful Life”
“What Dreams May Come”
“The Big Chill”
“Night Mother”

Take care of yourself

According to, one is more likely to commit suicide if one’s family member(s) did. So, try to be observant about your own mental health. If you feel you’re getting depressed, take action. Don’t let yourself spiral into suicidal morose. Take up a proactive anti-suicide role.

See a psychologist or psychiatrist. Get on some antidepressants if you need to. Become a suicide hotline worker. Don’t let yourself spiral into suicidal morose. Take up a proactive anti-suicide role. This can be a volunteer or paid position.

The hotline worker works directly with suicidal people, to help keep them from taking their lives. Become a Bereavement Specialist. These people go to survivors’ homes, and are there to support people in the wake of a suicide. Start or join a support group. Share your story on a suicide website, or even start an “understanding suicide” Web site.

Some Informational Suicide Websites: (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention)

Keep a journal about your feelings

Writing about how you feel about a person’s death can illuminate many deep-seated realizations about your struggle.

Getting over a suicide can take a lifetime. By engaging yourself actively with the experience, one can actively begin to process the death and start to remember the loved one for the good things about him/her, not the bad. Surviving a suicide isn’t easy; only necessary. Take care of yourself and your loved ones.


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