Post Description: Coping with Guilt After Losing a Child to Suicide: Strategies and Support is a poignant and compassionate exploration of the overwhelming emotions and hurdles parents face following the tragic loss of a child to suicide. This heartfelt post delves deep into the raw and complex journey, offering understanding, support, and guidance. It features meaningful quotes, relates to other relevant posts, and provides crucial resources for seeking professional help and healing.
Coping with Guilt After Losing a Child to Suicide
If you’ve lost a child to suicide, “How I Survived the Suicide of My Son: 15 Tips for Grieving Parents” is a must-read. Written by a mother who lost her son to suicide, these 15 tips can help parents begin to navigate the complexities of their grief.
Suicide Grief Brings a Barrage of Emotions
Suicide Changes Everything
Feelings that can come with suicide grief
Guilt after losing a child to suicide makes suicide grief complicated. Having strategies for coping with, and moving through, feelings of guilt can help you navigate grief towards help, hope, and healing.
With any loss, grief often comes in waves, ebbing and flowing, rather than in a set of predictable stages. Any grieving process can take a long time and throw up many difficult and unexpected emotions, but following a suicide, the normal responses to bereavement are often intensified.Help.org, Suicide Grief: Coping with a Loved One’s Suicide,
Feelings after suicide loss can be overwhelming
The overwhelming emotions and feelings that come after losing a child to suicide do not follow a linear order.
Mayo Clinic, Suicide Grief, Brace for Powerful Emotions
- Shock. Disbelief and emotional numbness might set in. You might think that your loved one’s suicide couldn’t possibly be real.
- Anger. You might be angry with your loved one for abandoning you or leaving you with a legacy of grief — or angry with yourself or others for missing clues about suicidal intentions.
- Guilt. You might replay “what if” and “if only” scenarios in your mind, blaming yourself for your loved one’s death.
- Despair. You might be gripped by sadness, loneliness or helplessness. You might have a physical collapse or even consider suicide yourself.
- Confusion. Many people try to make some sense out of the death, or try to understand why their loved one took his or her life. But, you’ll likely always have some unanswered questions.
- Feelings of rejection. You might wonder why your relationship wasn’t enough to keep your loved one from dying by suicide.
Suicide Loss Grief Strategies
I needed to feel not so alone
I wish I had known about these suicide grief strategies when I was new to suicide grief. Instead, I found myself floundering, reaching outwards for help while turning inwards in despair.
I didn’t know where to turn. I had lost my only child to suicide, my 20-year-old son Dylan. All of me was reeling: My world felt dark and hopeless. I didn’t think I could live without my son. I needed to feel not so alone.
While trying to understand everything you can about your loved one’s suicide is a normal part of the grieving process, it’s likely that you’ll be left with questions that can never be answered. Even if you do uncover all the answers, it won’t change the past or ease the grief and loss you’re experiencing. In time, however, it is possible to move beyond the question “Why?”, accept the unknowable, and start to heal.Suicide Grief: Coping with Grief and Loss, Helpguide.org
Strategies for coping with guilt in suicide grief
Coping with overwhelming guilt after losing a child to suicide
The strategies that follow include some of the ways that can help you cope with overwhelming guilt after suicide loss. I have, through the past 11 years of my grief, used most of these strategies. Reading “Struggling with Guile After Your Child’s Suicide: A True Tale of Two Mothers” helped me realize that I am not alone.
My journal writing after losing my son to suicide became this blog: My Forever Son: Chronicling Grief, Hope, and Healing After Losing my Son to Suicide. (Read About My Forever Son).
Keep a journal. Even if you’re not yet ready to talk about the difficult thoughts and feelings you’re experiencing, writing them down can provide an important release for your emotions. It may also help to write a letter to your loved one, saying the things you never got to say to them.
Remember your loved one’s life was about more than their suicide. Their final act doesn’t need to define their life. Try to remember and celebrate the important, joyous aspects of their life and of your relationship together. Mark their achievements and share memories, photos, and stories with others who loved them.
Expect ups and downs. The healing process rarely moves in a straight line. Some days your grief may seem more manageable than others. Then a painful reminder such as a birthday, holiday, or a favorite song playing on the radio will cause the waves of pain and sadness to return—even years after your loved one’s suicide.
Take care of yourself. It’s difficult to think about your own health at a time like this. But the stress and trauma you’re experiencing right now can take a serious toll on your mental and physical health. Try to eat healthy food, exercise regularly, get enough sleep, and spend time outdoors, ideally connecting with nature. While it’s tempting to turn to drugs and alcohol to help numb your grief, self-medicating won’t ease the pain and will only create more problems in the long-term.
Be patient. Don’t try to rush the healing process. Other people may move on or want to stop talking about your loss long before you do. If possible, avoid making major life decisions while you still feel overwhelmed by grief.Suicide Grief: Coping With Grief and Loss, Helpguide.org
Strategies for finding support in suicide loss grief and guilt
Parents of Suicides Online Support Group
Losing a child to suicide adds another level to the pain of grief. You can read more about what grief feels like to lose a child to suicide here: Dealing with the Heartbreak of Losing a Child to Suicide. I felt helpless and hopeless, and I felt completely alone in my grief.
I desperately searched for help with the heaviness of the grief of losing my child to suicide. I read as many books as I could find dealing with losing a child to suicide and suicide loss grief.
About Parents of Suicides Grief Support Group
I found the Parents of Suicides online support group early in my grief. I’ve met other parents who have lost a child to suicide in this group, and formed connections that help me feel less alone.
Parents of Suicides is an online support group specifically designed for parents who have lost a child to suicide. This community provides a safe space for parents to connect with others who have experienced a similar loss, offering understanding, empathy, and support during the grieving process.
Within Parents of Suicides, members can share their stories, emotions, and reflections without fear of judgment. The group fosters a nurturing environment where parents can exchange comfort, guidance, and coping strategies. It also serves as a platform to discuss the unique challenges that arise after losing a child to suicide.
Through the group’s online forums, parents can connect with individuals who have walked a similar path. The power of shared experiences can provide solace and comfort when it feels as though no one else could possibly comprehend the immense pain and complexity of suicide grief.
If you are a parent who has lost a child to suicide, reaching out and connecting with Parents of Suicides can be a meaningful step towards healing and finding support in navigating the difficult journey of grief. Remember, you are not alone.
More strategies for finding support
What helps me
I have sought help using most of the suggestions below. In the beginning of my grief, I felt so alone. What I’ve learned al0ng the way is that I’m not alone. It’s been 11 years since I lost my son to suicide, and I still stay connected to supportive friends and family, still participate in support groups (Parents of Suicides especially), and still practice self-care.
In early grief, I read as many books as I could find about suicide loss. I still read books and online research about suicide loss. Doing so helps me feel less alone. During difficult days (impossible days)–holidays, his birthday, Mother’s Day, his memorial date–I seek support.
Help, Hope, and Healing After Suicide Loss is a compendium of support resources and suicide loss grief groups. You can find information about the
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention,
- The Compassionate Friends,
- he American Association of Suicidology,
- and much more at Help, Hope, and Healing.
Grief tips for finding support after suicide loss
Seek out supportive friends and family. Confide in people you trust to be understanding, who are willing to listen when you want to talk, and won’t judge or tell you how you should be feeling.
Join a bereavement support group, ideally one for those who’ve lost someone to suicide. Being with others who’ve experienced a similar loss can offer invaluable support. You can be free to open up about your feelings without fear of being judged or made to feel awkward. Even if you’d rather just listen, hearing from others in a similar situation can provide hope and make you feel less isolated in your grief.
Use social media carefully. Social media can be a useful tool for letting others know about your loved one’s death, allowing people to share their condolences and tributes, and for reaching out to others for support. However, it can also attract a toxic element, people who post insensitive, cruel, or even abusive messages. You may want to limit your social media use to closed groups on platforms …rather than making public postings that can be read and commented on by anyone.
Talk to a therapist or grief counselor. If you’re struggling to find adequate support, turning to a mental health professional with experience in grief counseling can help. If you don’t have access to therapy, some organizations offer survivor outreach programs where you can talk one-to-one with a volunteer who’s also experienced suicide loss. See the “Get more help” section below for links.Suicide Grief: Coping with Grief and Loss, Helpguide.org
Living in the Glare of My Son’s Suicide is a poignant blog post about my experience with well-meaning, caring friends, family, and even a grief counselor who suggested I change my narrative. The post is a long-form poem, a narrative in itself, and my reflections share common ground with parents who have lost a child to suicide. It’s a powerful affirmation of loving my child enough to hold onto his narrative.
Find Hope Here: Poems of Love, Loss, and Losing a Child includes several of the poems from the book, Bury My Heart: Poems About Losing a Child to Suicide
Guilt in Suicide Grief
Guilt after losing a child to suicide means questioning everything:
What you did–or did not do;
What you did–or did not say;
What you could have, should have, would have done if only you had known.
In what seems a senseless loss
In what seems a senseless death, a child’s suicide leaves in its wake a multitude of guilt. “If only,” coupled with feeling responsible for not keeping your child safe, compounds grief after suicide loss. Complicated grief (See Suicide Grief: Prolonged Grief Disorder?) is common for parents who lose a child to suicide:
If there were previous suicide attempts, the parents might wonder, did I find the right provider? Did we make mistakes with treatment? Were we doing enough? And if [a child’s suicide] seemingly comes out of the blue, or the parent finds out there was bullying in school or social media or in relationships, they might think, how did I not know this?
Caren Chesler, “After child’s suicide, parents can be engulfed in self-blame and guilt
The what-ifs, I should’ves and if onlys can be overwhelming,” The Washington Post, July 15, 2023
I have written extensively about feeling remorse, guilt, and blame after a child’s suicide. You can read more here: Guilt After Losing a Child to Suicide
Suicide is Not a Choice: Surviving Your Child’s Suicide points to powerful research that affirms what public perception can gloss by: Suicide is not a choice. Nationwide Children’s Hospital has a blog and research and guidance from suicide epidemiologists that is helpful for parents who lose a young child.
When Someone is Too Bruised to Be Touched is both my experience with my son’s depression, suicide, and consequential guilt as a parent, and it is an extraordinarily touching blog post from Ronald Rolheiser. Rolheiser, a Catholic priest, uses a point of view from a religious standpoint. Rolheiser writes compassionately and at length about suicide loss, grief, and guilt.
We Want to Think We Could Have Saved Them
As parents, we want to think that we could have saved our child
“As a parent, we want to think that we could have saved them, we could have protected them, it could have turned out different. And there’s no answer to that. And I think that’s part of the torture of when you have a child die by suicide is you just don’t know,” said Christina Liparini, a licensed psychologist and volunteer at Good Grief, a nonprofit group that serves families that have experienced the death of a parent or child.After child’s suicide, parents can be engulfed in self-blame and guilt
The what-ifs, I should’ves and if onlys can be overwhelming
By Caren Chesler
July 15, 2023 at 8:00 a.m. EDT
Guilt in grief Is heavy
Guilt in grief after losing a child to suicide is impossible. Heavy. Weighted. Leaden. Like it will never end. We search for an answer that never comes: Why? Why suicide? Why did my son take his life? What made my daughter take her life? Why suicide, why?
Move Beyond the Question: “Why?”
Questioning why suicide, why
When you lose someone to suicide, one question can run over and over in your mind more than any other: “Why did they do it?” Unless the person had been battling a terminal illness and chose suicide as a way of hastening the end, for example, most answers you come up with may feel inadequate. Suicide is very complex. There tend to be many different contributing factors, and rarely any neat, simplistic explanations. Even those who’ve attempted suicide and survived often struggle to provide a clear answer to the question “Why?”
Most people who die by suicide have a mental or emotional health problem such as depression, bipolar disorder, or PTSD, even though less than half have previously been diagnosed. Relationship problems, substance abuse, physical health issues, bullying, legal difficulties, and financial stress can also be major contributors.
Even if your loved one left a suicide note, that may not provide the answers you’re looking for. Someone who is suicidal has a skewed view of what’s happening to them. They are in so much pain the only way they can see to escape that pain is by taking their own life. They’re not thinking of the devastating effects their actions will have on you, they’re just trying to escape the unbearable pain they’re experiencing. Most wish for an alternative way to end their suffering, but are so blinded by negative emotions they can see no other solution.
While trying to understand everything you can about your loved one’s suicide is a normal part of the grieving process, it’s likely that you’ll be left with questions that can never be answered. Even if you do uncover all the answers, it won’t change the past or ease the grief and loss you’re experiencing. In time, however, it is possible to move beyond the question “Why?”, accept the unknowable, and start to heal.Helpguide.org, Suicide Grief: Coping with a Loved One’s Suicide
Guilt After Losing a Child to Suicide
Guilt After Losing a Child to Suicide
Self-Blame and Guilt: I Couldn’t Save My Son I can’t stop thinking about how much he suffered—and my own inability to save him. Lori Gottlieb, “I Blame Myself for My Son’s Death,” The Atlantic, September 7, 2020 It’s been nearly 10 years since I lost my only son to suicide. Had someone suggested in my…Read More
Once Upon a Blue-Sky Moon: A Poem about Losing a Child to Suicide ABOUT THIS POST: This poem, Once Upon a Blue-Sky Moon, expresses deep emotions about losing a child to suicide. The imagery of sailing ships and the night sky effectively convey the sense of loss and darkness. The repetition of the phrase “If…Read More
Struggling with Guilt in Suicide Grief Parents of children who die by suicide often battle anadded type of guilt. Even if they do not blame themselvesfor not directly intervening in the suicidal act, they often feelguilt over some perceived mistake in raising their children.“Where did I go wrong?,” “I pushed them too hard.” and“If we…Read More
A Poem of Guilt in Grief: That All of Love Could Sweep Time Back ABOUT THIS POST: That All of Love Could Sweep Time Back is a poem about feeling guilt and self-blame after losing a child to suicide. I lost my 20-year-old-son, my only child, to suicide June 25, 2012. I knew I couldn’t…Read More
When Someone is Too Bruised to Be Touched A Split Second without a Second Chance A tick on a clock. A split second without a second chance. A momentary collapse into utter despair and hopelessness. A fleeting glimpse of a life once-lived not enough to sustain. A single click on a school’s classroom clock, half…Read More
Post Description: Coping with Guilt After Losing a Child to Suicide: Strategies and Support is a poignant and compassionate exploration of the overwhelming emotions and hurdles parents face following the tragic loss of a child to suicide. This heartfelt post delves deep into the raw and complex journey, offering understanding, support, and guidance. It features…Read More
Know When to Seek Professional Help
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If you experience intense or unrelenting anguish or physical problems, ask your doctor or mental health provider for help. Seeking professional help is especially important if you think you might be depressed or you have recurring thoughts of suicide. Unresolved grief can turn into complicated grief, where painful emotions are so long lasting and severe that you have trouble resuming your own life.
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If you think you may hurt yourself or attempt suicide, get help right away. In the U.S., call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, or use the Lifeline Chat. Veterans or service members can call 988 and then press “1,” or text 838355, or chat online. The Suicide & Crisis Lifeline has a Spanish language phone line at 1-888-628-9454 (toll-free)