Bereavement due to suicide

Family dynamics

Alex and Felicity were also glad that family members supported each other when their daughter, Alice, died by suicide.
Nina recalled that when her brother Joe was dying in hospital their parents supported each other even though they were divorced and relations between them had not been good.
Steve also said that when his sister died by suicide the rest of the family ‘pulled together’ and became even closer than they had been before the terrible event. Steve said that in particular his relationship with his parents had become much stronger. 
After Linda’s teenage daughter died she found that she had become closer to her husband. However, she said that it took a while for her, her husband and her other daughter to become a ‘family of three’.
Lucy and Darrell had not been in contact with their families for many years. After Darrell’s suicide both families supported Lucy and instead of being known as Darrell’s girlfriend she now feels part of his family, and she sees both families every week.
Thus in some families relationships had improved after the death of a family member by suicide. However, in other families, relationships had become subtly changed or strained. One man, for example, said that when his wife died he found it hard to love his young daughters for a while. Someone else said that when her brother died, family relationships were uneasy because members of the family realised that everyone was vulnerable. Thus it felt a bit like ‘living on a knife edge’. They no longer took each other for granted. Others also said that family relationships had become uneasy.
Arthur said that when his son died he was so wrapped up in his son’s death that he neglected his daughter to such an extent that he almost felt there was only one child in the family. He regrets that. After Tom died Jane and Maurice found it hard to talk to each other about their son’s death, and life was ‘uncomfortable’ for a while.
Once there has been one suicide in a family people may worry that others will see this as a way of dealing with any problems. Families that had been affected by more than one person dying by suicide suffered particularly and found it understandably difficult to cope with the prospect of losing anyone else in this way. Counselling – perhaps involving the whole family – may help (See ‘Help and support from professionals’ and ‘Help from Cruse Bereavement Care’). Susan and her husband found it hard to talk about their sons’ suicides and they sometimes blamed each other for what had happened.
Ted’s father died when he was only 12 years old. He said that the family did not talk about his father’s death and pretended it had not happened, which was ‘not ideal’.
Some people told us that family relationships had got worse. Stuart’s ex-partner died by suicide. Since then some of her family have been ‘absolutely fantastic’, but others have had no contact at all, and at times Stuart feels quite hurt and abandoned. He thinks that Anne’s family blame him for her death. Lucreta also said that after her daughter died relationships with the family have got worse. She wonders if other family members are afraid and do not know what to say.  

Last reviewed July 2017.


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