When someone close to you dies by suicide, it affects how you feel and are able to cope. When that person had a mental illness, you may feel additional grief that is difficult for you and others to fully understand.
It is not your fault that the person died, but people often feel guilty even though they are not responsible for what happened. Many factors contribute to someone taking their own life. Talking through how you feel can help lessen this feeling of guilt over time.
When someone you care about has a mental illness, it is natural for this to affect your relationship. It is common to have complicated feelings such as resentment at the unfairness of the world, guilt or even a sense of relief that the person is no longer suffering.
Anger is also a common reaction. You may feel angry at the person or angry at mental health services for not doing enough to prevent the suicide. These are normal reactions, and it is important to talk about them, so you can begin to understand and manage them while you are grieving.
After someone with a mental illness dies by suicide, you may find you are grieving for the person they were before the illness, as well as before they died.
It helps to talk about how you felt when the person was diagnosed and how that affected your life. This can help you understand some of the feelings you have as a result of the suicide.
It is common to feel physical effects. Don’t be alarmed if you have headaches, nausea, begin to walk or speak slowly, or cannot sleep. However, do tell your doctor if these symptoms persist.
The suicide of a family member or friend can be particularly hard and you may feel others do not understand. Talk to your doctor or caseworker about the suicide and ask for some extra support – you need it just as much as anyone.
There is not always a clear beginning or end to grief. Take the chance to grieve in your own way and time. If not, the feelings you do not express may return and be even more upsetting later.
Sometimes people find it difficult to understand mental illness and even harder to understand suicide. Talking to friends can ease feelings of loneliness, so seek out someone supportive to talk to – some will be pleased to help.
Grief affects everyone differently but with support you can find ways to cope with the loss. Talking to a counsellor or joining a support group can be an important step to look at ways to ‘move on with’ your grief.
Other useful SANE Factsheets on this topic available from the website:
Has someone close to you with a mental illness gone missing?
Is someone close to you bereaved by suicide?
The State Coroner’s Office investigates deaths where the circumstances are sudden, traumatic or unexplained. For more information about how Coroners Courts work, download a Bereavement Information Pack from the ARBOR Resources page of www.mcsp.org.au.
24-hour crisis telephone counselling
Lifeline: 13 11 14
National Missing Persons Coordination Centre
1800 000 634
Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement
1800 642 066
24-hour bereavement support
Salvation Army Bereaved by Suicide Line
1300 467 354
SANE Help Centre
1800 18 SANE (7263)
Please click on one of the links below to access resources related to this topic.
These resources are available to you for free but if you can make a contribution - small or large - to help make these materials available to other people, it would be a big help!