How you might be feeling

Facing stigma and feeling shame

It may be that you have a painful feeling of shame or distress; perhaps thinking that you have done something wrong or did not do enough to prevent the death. You may also feel ashamed because of the way that other people talk about suicide and the stigma that persists in our society.

Many find bereavement by suicide marks them out and complicates the way in which people respond. Some feel it would be easier to explain the death in a different way. Others may not know what to say. People bereaved by suicide often say they feel judged in a way that would not happen if their loved one had died in a different way.

You may feel rejected by people close to you or in your community. Sometimes people seem unable to cope with what has happened and withdraw when you need them, leaving you feeling isolated. Some don’t know how to react and are frightened of doing or saying the wrong thing.

Feeling alone and searching

People who have been bereaved sometimes search for the person who has died. For example, you may want to go to where the person used to spend time (work, school, or a favourite place) in case they will be there. Equally, some may want to avoid such places, now and in the future. It is also quite common to think you have caught a glimpse of the person who has died, for them to appear to you in a dream or to find yourself calling their name.

I can’t believe what has happened, it doesn’t feel real

The feeling of shock can last a long time and you may experience it in many ways. It may feel as if you have lost your ability to breathe normally – as if someone has punched a hole through you or you have taken a deep breath in and then can’t breathe out. Or you may feel you have lost your ability to complete daily tasks and that you are detached from what is going on around you.

Some people find it hard to accept someone has died, and that the person will no longer be part of their lives. This feeling can fade as the reality of their death sinks in, but you may still find yourself doubting what has happened for some time.

It is quite common to feel physically unwell with headaches, upset stomachs and sickness. Because you are feeling low, you may find yourself being less resilient against colds, for example, than usual. You may have trouble eating or sleeping.

I’m feeling angry and afraid

People who have been bereaved often feel angry. You may be angry with the person for dying in this way and leaving so much pain behind, or because you have been left to deal with lots of practical matters and you feel ill-prepared.

Grief can feel frightening. Sometimes people are afraid about what life will be like without the person who has died or about the impact the death will have on others. It can be difficult to imagine a different future.

The fear and uncertainty over how people will react can lead you to put up defences against them in case they say something upsetting or ask intrusive questions. Even though it is difficult, talking is helpful. Some people say it can be easier to talk with people who have also been bereaved by suicide.

Physical reactions

You may find you are feeling physically unwell, with intense or lasting headaches, upset stomachs, sickness and feeling low. You may find you are having difficulty going to or staying asleep, or feeling tired and like you want to sleep all day.

These are common reactions to being impacted by suicide. You may also feel you don’t want to eat, and feel sick when you try to. You may find you are drinking more as a distraction. It is important to remember to try to look after your body, even when it might seem really hard. If you are experiencing physical symptoms, you may find it helpful to speak to your GP, or to tell someone trusted how you are feeling.


However much you are trying to understand what happened, you may feel rejected, and also that your love and care was ignored by the person who died. This can be especially true if you have been supporting the person for a long time through a period of mental ill health. 

You may feel rejected by people close to you or in your community. Sometimes people seem unable to cope with what has happened and withdraw when you need them, leaving you feeling isolated. Some don’t know how to react and are frightened of doing or saying the wrong thing and, as a result, they don’t make contact and seemingly ignore you.

Sadness and despair

A feeling of profound sadness may be the most frequent response to the death of someone close. You may feel you want the person back and life to return to how it once was.

People bereaved by suicide may question whether they can face living without the person who has died. For some, this may be a fleeting thought; for others, it can become deep despair. Sometimes, people feel they are losing control of their mental health because the grief is so intense.

If this feels too much for you, please seek support.

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Suicidal thoughts

Some people bereaved by suicide may start to have suicidal thoughts. If you find this happening to you, please reach out for help. Samaritans are at the end of a phone every hour of every day of the year (ring 116 123). There are many people in organisations that will be able to help and support you. Please share how you are feeling with someone.

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Why do I feel guilty?

Feeling overwhelming guilt may be one of the main reasons that bereavement through suicide is so painful. You could be feeling guilty for something you did or did not do, or said or did not say. You may even feel that the person’s death is your fault and that other people will not understand if you tell them.

You may feel you should or could have prevented it. This is a normal feeling that many people experience. Everyone who has lost someone to suicide will have asked themselves what they missed or could have done differently and: why?

Last conversations can replay in your head. It is very likely that you were offering all your support, love and care. People who take their lives may not have shown despair to those around them. No one has a ‘perfect’ relationship, and they may even argue, but the causes of suicide are usually complicated. In truth, the person who took their life is the only one who knew why it felt impossible to live.

For some, a person’s death feels like a relief – if they have been in deep distress or pain for a long time or if you have spent a long time worrying that they might die. This is a natural response to a long period of tension and stress and does not mean that you didn’t care. There is the possibility that you accept the person’s death as the choice they made given the situation that they were in.