How suicide affects you

Losing someone to suicide can bring intense emotional and physical reactions that can be frightening and seem uncontrollable. There is no "right way" to respond or grieve. Many survivors experience similar feelings but not everyone experiences them all and some will feel them more intensely and more frequently than others.

Common and normal reactions to suicide can include:

  • Shock is often the first reaction. Many suicides are unexpected and happen without warning. The initial shock can be overwhelming and may leave you numb and disorientated. Sleeplessness and nightmares are common.

  • Disbelief and denial – accepting the reality of a suicide, especially in the early days of grief. 

  • Anger and blame are common responses when trying to make sense of a suicide. They may be directed at the person who died for leaving and hurting you, at doctors or counsellors for not doing more, at family members, or yourself.

  • Guilt is often felt by survivors who feel they could and should have done more or that they missed signs of a problem. In the vast majority of cases these are unfounded and guilt fades as we accept that the person made their decision as a result of many factors that we had no control over.  

  • Shame is a feeling associated more with suicide than other deaths, especially in a small community like Bermuda. Some survivors feel that they may be judged and blamed as a bad partner or parent. There is often still a stigma that people who die by suicide are mentally ill or from dysfunctional families. These misguided beliefs are changing – we can help by talking as openly as we are able to friends, family and colleagues. 

  • Anxiety and fear about the consequences for yourself, surviving family members, and the future is normal. You may worry that other friends and family will die, or you may feel less confident in your ability to cope with everyday life or make decisions. 

  • Sadness, despair and depression can be the most long-lasting and painful impacts of grief following a suicide. The emotional swings, constant questioning and the physical pain of loss are extremely stressful and can take their toll on sleep, ability to work or study, as well as relationships. Survivors often experience gnawing stomach pains, tightness in their chest, or lack of energy. It is very important to take time and look after yourself. Do not hesitate to consult your doctor or seek professional help from a counsellor if you are concerned – especially if you begin to have suicidal thoughts yourself.

  • Longing to see the person again, solve their problems and change their decision and outcome is a frequent reaction, as is thinking that you see or hear them.   

  • Relief is not uncommon if the person who died has had a troubled or unhappy life and made previous attempts, in which case you may be relieved – and comforted – by the fact that they are no longer suffering.

  • Isolation and loneliness are frequently experienced by survivors, especially in a small community like Bermuda where the stigma of suicide still persists in some quarters and there is not the support network to be found in other countries. These feelings can become acute over time as others go back to their normal lives while your grief remains intense and painful. One of the reasons LOSS was founded was to connect survivors and provide support for each other.

  • Physical pain or discomfort is common and may last several weeks. These can include  a hollow or gnawing feeling in the stomach, tightness of the chest or throat, sleeplessness, breathlessness, poor concentration, loss of energy, heightened sensitivity to noise or crowds. If symptoms continue over a long period of time, consult your doctor.

  • Trauma - if you discovered the body or witnessed the act itself, you may find yourself having recurring nightmares and flashbacks. These can be deeply distressing and a symptom of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Talk to your doctor or a therapist if you experience these symptoms and they persist.