Pink and White Cherry Blossoms in spring Photo close up, My Forever Son, Grief Tips After Suicide Loss
Pink and White Cherry Blossoms in spring, My Forever Son

7 Grief Tips for Surviving the Suicide of Your Child

And can it be in a world so full and busy the loss of one creature makes a void so wide and deep that nothing but the width and depth of eternity can fill it up.

Charles Dickens, Dombey and Sons, Chapter 18

Suicide Grief is Different

Suicide grief is not like other grief. And if you’ve lost your child to suicide, the tumult and chaos of traumatic grief can feel overwhelming. Suicide grief can be overpowering, eclipsing all else in your life.

My grief in the immediacy of losing my son to suicide felt like being tossed in the middle of a vast, dark, stormy ocean. No light. Nothing to cling to. Feeling pelted with tidal wave after tidal wave, struggling even to breathe without my son. I have never felt such pain. I didn’t want to be here without my son.

I sought help in all the ways I knew how. I read about suicide loss and how parents survived the loss of their child. I found a local support group for suicide loss survivors. I joined an online parents of suicide group. The grief tips that follow are suggestions that helped me survive acute grief. Perhaps they will help you too.

7 Grief Tips to Survive the Suicide of Your Child:

Grief Tip #1: Expect Intense Emotions

These emotions and feelings do not occur in a particular order. Grief is confusing and messy. Emotions can surface, go away, then resurface again later. Your grief will be unique to you.

  • Shock
  • Anger
  • Guilt
  • Despair
  • Confusion
  • Sadness
  • Blame
  • Hopelessness
  • Questioning
  • Longing
  • Feeling numb
  • Inability to think clearly
  • Bargaining
  • Struggling with Why?

Grief Tip #2: Adopt Healthy Coping Strategies

The aftermath of a loved one’s suicide can be physically and emotionally exhausting. As you work through your grief, be careful to protect your own well-being.

Mayo Clinic, Suicide Grief

The tips below from the Mayo Clinic are some of the best grief suggestions I’ve found. Suicide Grief is unique and complicated, and losing a child to suicide is overwhelming. The stigma surrounding suicide can keep others from reaching out. Know when to seek professional help, and find groups and organizations that can help.

Healthy Coping Strategies from The Mayo Clinic:

Keep in touch. Reach out to loved ones, friends and spiritual leaders for comfort, understanding and healing. Surround yourself with people who are willing to listen when you need to talk, as well as those who’ll simply offer a shoulder to lean on when you’d rather be silent.

Grieve in your own way. Do what’s right for you, not necessarily someone else. There is no single “right” way to grieve. If you find it too painful to visit your loved one’s gravesite or share the details of your loved one’s death, wait until you’re ready.

Be prepared for painful reminders. Anniversaries, holidays and other special occasions can be painful reminders of your loved one’s suicide. Don’t chide yourself for being sad or mournful. Instead, consider changing or suspending family traditions that are too painful to continue.

Don’t rush yourself. Losing someone to suicide is a tremendous blow, and healing must occur at its own pace. Don’t be hurried by anyone else’s expectations that it’s been “long enough.”

Expect setbacks. Some days will be better than others, even years after the suicide — and that’s OK. Healing doesn’t often happen in a straight line.

Consider a support group for families affected by suicide. Sharing your story with others who are experiencing the same type of grief might help you find a sense of purpose or strength. However, if you find going to these groups keeps you ruminating on your loved one’s death, seek out other methods of support.

Mayo Clinic, Suicide Grief, Adopt healthy coping strategies

Grief Tip #3: Your Grief is Not a Burden–Talk About Your Loss. Say Their Name. Find Support.

Grief Can Be Exhausting

Talk about your loss. Grief unfolds over time. Find others (friends, family, professionals) with whom to share about your loss.

Grieving is a process. Keep it simple. Remember to breathe. If you’ve lost a child, then you know how difficult it can be to remember to breathe.

Follow your feelings. Shock, sadness, intense longing, guilt, numbness, anger–these are all part of the process of grieving.

Write letters. To the child you lost. To yourself. Journal.

Grief can be exhausting. Take time to grieve.

Your grief is not a burden. It is an expected reaction to loss.
We grieve because we experience love and connection. No need to apologize for your grief or your changing emotions in response to  losing your loved one to suicide.

It’s okay to say their name, even if others can’t right now.
Say their name, even if you are the only one that can in the moment.  Doing so also helps others to know that it’s okay to talk about the person who has died by suicide, and that you want to do that. Sharing stories and memories can be healing.

There are resources out there to support you in your grief. There is a community of suicide loss survivors who want to support you as you grieve. For more loss resources visit [American Foundation for Suicide Prevention]

Doreen Marshall, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, “Grieving a Suicide Loss: 8 Things I Know for Sure”

Grief Tip #4: Practice Self-Care

Taking Care of Yourself

Taking care of yourself while grieving the suicide loss of your child can seem impossible. I was exhausted by grief without desire or energy to make something to eat.

Someone suggested I keep it simple–just eat a little something (healthy), even if I didn’t feel like it. A piece of fruit, a yogurt, something easy to give myself enough energy to make it through another day of grief.

My friend (who had lost her daughter) reminded me to drink water and take care of myself even when I felt unable to do so. She said I would need my energy for grieving. She was right. Grief is exhausting.

Take care of yourself. You have been wounded. Something very valuable and dear has been taken away from you. Give yourself time and space to begin healing. Get enough rest. Eat nourishing food. Give yourself a break.

Mark D Miller, MD, Good Grief, A Journey of Healing

There are ways to practice self-care while grieving a suicide loss (and it’s important!)
Even though grief from a suicide loss can sometimes feel overwhelming, it is important to make sure that we do as much as we can to take care of our body’s basic needs as we grieve. Make sure to drink enough water, get some gentle daily exercise and sleep when you can.  Ask others to help you so you can take a nap, get out for a walk in nature, or prepare some nutritious food, for example.

Doreen Marshall, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Grieving a Suicide Loss: 8 Things I Know for Sure

Grief Tip #5: Seek Support, Help, and Resources

Finding support after losing my son to suicide helped me feel not so alone. I didn’t know anyone who had lost someone to suicide, let alone a child to suicide. Here are some of the groups and resources that help support me through my grief:

The Compassionate Friends, Local Meeting and Online, Surviving Your Child’s Suicide.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Out of the Darkness Walk, Local group, online videos and support (How I Survived the Suicide of My Son , 15 Tips for Grieving Parents)

Iris Bolton, author and speaker, online and books, including My Son, My Son

Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Center for Suicide Prevention and Research, multiple articles, blog, research

Consider seeking out other grievers. Someone who has also been through grief can empathize with you, and vice versa. Organizations like The Compassionate Friends [Surviving Your Child’s Suicide] recognize the value of sharing in a group setting. Don’t feel obligated to join groups if they are not for you. The grief process is highly individual. Some people prefer solitude or reflection rather than group work. Do what feels right for you.

Mark D Miller, MD, Complicated Grief in Late Life

Grief Tip #6: Take Time to Grieve

Resume your life but leave time and space for grieving. Life marches on for the living. But try to resist the temptation to “throw yourself” into work or other diversions. This leaves too little time for the grief work you need to do for yourself.

Resist the temptation to use alcohol or drugs to numb your pain. These can interfere with the grieving process by delaying it or covering it up.

If you have any religious inclination, consider contacting your place of worship. All religions recognize that grievers need special help. Consider taking advantage of these services even if you have not been attending regularly.

20 Tips for Grief and Loss,” Good Grief Center, Dr. Mark D. Miller

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