Bereavement due to suicide

Coping with grief and keeping memories alive

Barbara sometimes wrote notes to her son, even though he was dead. In her notes she talked about her daily life. For example, she described her walks and the leaves and flowers and told him about a new baby in the family. She also had other ways of coping with her grief. Barbara and her husband, Colin, planted a tree in memory of their son.

After Helen’s daughter died, her partner brought her tea in the morning and ran her a bath. This helped her start the day in a “slightly better way”. Months later Helen found great comfort by helping others. She helped people who attended the local Homeless Centre.

Other people also found that by helping others they could cope more easily with what had happened. For example, after his son died Arthur and others started Papyrus, a voluntary UK organisation committed to the prevention of young suicide and the promotion of mental health and emotional wellbeing.
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Kavita found it comforting to walk around in the places where her brother had been before he died. She said that she felt close to him in areas that he loved, at the crematorium and also where he had died (also see ‘The headstone or other memorial’).
Some people said that their faith and the church had helped them enormously, but others had lost their religious faith as the result of their loved ones suicide.
The Catholic Church has traditionally maintained that it is a ‘mortal sin’ to die by suicide. Some people we talked to had been reassured that the church is now more liberal on this matter. A priest assured Steve that his sister would not go to hell and made Steve feel much better.
Many people told us that it was really important to keep memories of their loved ones alive. When Amanda’s son died she asked his friends to write about Lori on brightly coloured bits of paper. She kept all the notes in a memory box with some photographs. Looking at what his friends wrote about Lori makes her smile.
Michael kept a box of small things that had belonged to his friend before he died. He also kept a scrapbook with newspaper cuttings about what had happened, and an obituary that had been written for his friend.
Rachel lost her mother from suicide when she was only a teenager. She has kept a box of jewellery and some postcards which her mother wrote to her own mother when she was travelling. Rachel has also kept a diary which had belonged to her mother and some letters.

Many people spent time and effort ensuring that the person who had died would never be forgotten. This seemed to help them cope with their grief.

Susan and her husband collected donations for a memorial bench in their sons’ memory. They both got great comfort from visiting their sons’ graves (also see ‘The headstone or other memorials’). Susan was tattooed with both their names, Barry and Stephen.

Bob and Lynda keep their son’s memory alive in many ways. For example, when they send cards to people at Christmas they stamp a butterfly onto the card, and include Darren’s name. The butterfly is one of the symbols of Compassionate friends. The butterfly is a sign of hope that children who have died are living in another dimension with greater beauty and freedom.

Last reviewed July 2017.


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