Bereavement due to suicide

Changing emotions-sadness, guilt & anger

Some of the people we talked to had been bereaved quite recently. Kate lost a second daughter through suicide in 2007, only months before we talked to her. She said that the tears had not stopped since Anna died, and that at times she feels like dying. Jenny lost her husband David in 2007. She felt desolate after he died and still needs plenty of time to cry. She has a baby daughter and says that without her, and the happiness she brings, it’s too painful to imagine how she would be feeling.

Those who had been bereaved some time ago had experienced a wide range of emotions during the following weeks, months and years. Emotions included sadness, anguish, pain, anger, fear, despair, guilt, rejection, relief, panic, isolation, loneliness, depression, anxiety and concern about loss of memory and concentration.

Grief was sometimes still overwhelming. Years after people had lost close relatives or friends due to suicide many said they still felt desolate.
For a while Susan wondered if she would ever feel joy again after Rose died. She said she is only just beginning to see the colours of the trees and to appreciate that the countryside is beautiful. She also finds grieving exhausting. Barbara said that the terrible pain of losing Matt is still there and that she thinks about him daily. Dolores feels sad because she misses Steve and because her son has lost his father.
Guilt was a very common emotion, though not felt by everyone. Kate, for example, said that she never felt guilty about her daughters’ deaths, and Susan said that she did not feel guilty because she could not have done more for Rose. But some others said that guilt dominated their thoughts for a long time. Many said they felt that somehow they should have done more to prevent the person’s death. 
Jane felt guilty for at least seven years after her son died. The first year she had felt she was in a “fog”. Then in the second year the real pain started and she was able to cry.
Stuart felt very lonely and isolated after his ex-partner died and he worried about his son. He wondered whether he could have done more to prevent Anne’s death.
It was not unusual for people to describe depression, or even their own suicidal feelings, after the bereavement. Susan, for example, said that when Barry died she found it hard to grieve because she was caring for her young daughter. When Stephen, another son, also died by suicide she felt desperate. She felt upset, frightened, angry and “terribly guilty”. This led to “a breakdown”. She had to give up work for a while and took antidepressants.
People often felt angry. Some were angry with God, some were angry with mental health services, some were angry with a person who they felt had caused the situation leading to the suicide, and others felt angry with the person who had died. Ted, for example, was only 12 years old when his father died. He felt intense grief for about a year and then suddenly realised that he did not feel anything except anger. He was angry because he felt that his father’s suicide had ruined his mother’s life.
After a number of months or years most people said that they had adjusted, at least to some extent, to life without the person who had died. They still felt a great sense of loss but feelings had changed (see ‘Adjusting to life without the person who died’.)

Last reviewed July 2017.


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