Death Through Suicide

A death through suicide delivers a double blow to families – not only do they have to cope with a sudden and often unexpected death but they also have to deal with the way their relative has died.

They may feel very alone in their grief, but sadly more people are bereaved through suicide than most of us realise.

Winston’s Wish is a member of the Suicide Bereavement Support Partnership who’s vision is that “people bereaved by suicide should have the right to appropriate support services.”

Does bereavement by suicide differ from other types of bereavement?

The death of someone important can cause great pain and sadness whatever the cause of death. However, families bereaved after a loved one has taken their own life also have to face additional pressures and pain. You can often face agonising questions and intrusive public scrutiny at a time when you are feeling confused and vulnerable.

If you have been bereaved though suicide, you will probably go through the shock, deep sadness and occasional anger felt by people bereaved in other ways. At the same time, you may also have to cope with extra emotions such as guilt, shame, and self-blame. You may find yourself plagued by thoughts of ‘what if’ and ‘if only’. On top of everything else, parents can fear for the future mental health of their children. One person described it as ‘grief with the volume turned up’.

A bereavement like this can leave families asking many unanswerable questions. Families can feel isolated within their own community as a result of the stigma attached to this type of death; individuals within families can be left isolated as the pain is felt too great to bear and permission to talk and share thoughts and feelings is not given.

There will be differences for all members of the family depending on who dies. The death of a parent or a brother or sister or of a partner or child will impact differently on children and adults depending on the previous relationships. For example, it is particularly hard to parent a child through adolescence if their older brother or sister killed him or herself.

Useful Information

Talking to Children About Death

The biggest concern that parents might have is how to tell their children that someone has taken their own life. For further information and some helpful suggestions about how these conversations could be approached please read ‘Talking about death’.

Feelings & Thoughts

There are many complicated feelings and thoughts that children and adults experience following a death through suicide. For more information about some of these emotions and thoughts, please see Feelings and thoughts.

A Note on Language

Please note that we never refer to ‘committing suicide’; this expression has remained in public usage long after suicide legally ceased to be considered a criminal act. Its use can distress families and it is preferable to refer to ’death by suicide’ or that the deceased ‘took their own life’ or ‘ended their life’. A child recently described his father’s death by suicide as ‘Dad made himself die’.

Help is at Hand

Support after someone may have died by suicide