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7 Complex Feelings of Suicide Loss Survivors

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Editor's Note

If you experience suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

The news that someone you love has died by suicide inevitably brings a whirlwind of emotions no one can really prepare for. Anger. Shock. Confusion. Frustration. None of them wrong — and all of them likely hitting at different times in the healing process. Forget the stages of grief — losing a loved one is so much more complicated than that. Losing a loved one to suicide, specifically, often leaves those left behind with more questions than answers, making it painstakingly difficult to sift though these lingering emotions.  

If it brings you any comfort, you’re not the only one who’s gone though it. Time may not make all the pain go away, but healing is still possible. You’re never the same, but you can be OK.

To explore some of these complex feelings suicide loss survivors may feel, we checked in with our mental health community and asked those who’ve lost a loved to to suicide to share an unexpected or surprising emotion they felt after their loss. We want you to know if you felt — or still feel — any of the emotions listed below, you’re not alone. There’s nothing wrong with how you feel, and allowing yourself to feel these emotions can sometimes be a first step to healing. A first step of many, but a first step nonetheless.

If you’ve lost a loved one to suicide and need support, you can find resources here

Here are the complicated emotions of suicide loss people in our community shared with us:

1. Anger

“I was angry at him. I felt so much rage and a type of hatred towards my once best friend who I adored deeply. It was super conflicting, and I had many people who haven’t even been through the same situation try to tell me it was cruel of me to be so angry at him. But I was. I spent months guilty that I was angry at him. I looked at the sky and screamed at him outside in the middle of the night, asking him why he left me here alone. I screamed and screamed and told him how of all people in the world, he made me happy and he took that away from me. Finally, I realized… it was OK to be so angry. I was angry because I loved him so much. My anger and grief was really all the love I have for him, stuck, with nowhere to go.” — Kellyann N.

“I was angry. I was angry at her for leaving me. I was angry at myself for not trying harder to die. I was angry at the residential treatment center we met at because it worked for me but not for her. I was angry at God for taking her and leaving me behind. After crying out the anger, I was left with just a numb sense of disbelief and unfairness. I go through this at least twice a year every year since she left, on her birthday and the anniversary of her suicide (it’ll be five years this November). It always hits me with despair.” — Julie C.

“I was so angry. And not just at the person I lost. I was just furious at literally everything around me. I had to ‘put myself in time out’ so to speak for the first couple of months to keep from lashing out at the people around me. Driving made me angry, people made me angry, living made me angry. Everything just made me so angry. The feeling eventually went away, and I was able to connect it back to the loss of my loved one, but it was a complicated emotion to deal with.” — Sydney W.

 2. Confusion

“Confused. My mom was about to be a grandma for the first time. I didn’t understand.” — Rachel N.

“I was struggling to understand why! Why he did it and why at that particular time. How long had he bern planning it or was it just an impulse? Why didn’t he ask for help?… Why didn’t someone try harder to get him some help for his mood swings? He didn’t have to die! So many unanswered questions that will remain unanswered for this lifetime.” — Angie A.

“I don’t know if I was surprised by it, but confused. I just couldn’t seem to understand why. She was such an amazing person in my eyes, the world was a better place with her in it. I just wish she could have realized that herself. I was also very young when my friend ended her life, being 17 and losing a friend this way was earth-shattering.” — Tammy T.

3. Guilt

“I was angry he left, and I also felt an overwhelming sense of guilt. I felt like it was my fault he killed himself. I was angry at myself because I felt like I should have done something. I felt like I should have known he wasn’t OK, even without him telling me, or showing how he really wasn’t OK. And I’m still angry and still feel guilty.” — Sabrina J.

“Complete denial and guilt. When I got the text that she had killed herself, I sat there for 15 minutes saying, ‘No this can be true. This isn’t real. This isn’t happening.’ Then I started to cry continuously screaming that this was all my fault. I felt I should have done more, texted her more often.” — Keira W.

 4. Denial

“Denial. I found his body. I knew he was dead. Yet I didn’t quite understand it. I asked the police officer if he was dead.” — Becky O.

“I had utter disbelief. I had this feeling for months afterward that she was just on vacation and she would come back. I just waited for her to come back.” — Chris W.

5. Relief

“Honestly, and this is going to sound terrible, but I felt happy for them. Happy they are no longer struggling, happy they are in a better place (wherever that place may be) and are free from everything.” — Talia H.

“My answer will sound awful. However you need to know they had attempted suicide so many times before. I was always worried, was always on edge walking on eggshells, just hoping not to be/do the thing that makes them break. So when I received the phone call… it was not quite relief, but it was done and there was nothing I could do. Then the ever-crushing guilt flooded over me. I felt guilty for feeling that and then guilty for all of the what ifs. I did everything I could, but it wasn’t enough. Soon the pain engulfed everything until I became numb.” — Heather E.

6. Jealousy

“I lost a co-worker to suicide and my immediate feeling was jealousy. I was jealous they had died, that they no longer had to deal with life… then I felt guilty for thinking that.” — Ashleigh W.

“I was jealous. I had gone to him multiple times when I was feeling suicidal and he had talked me out of it. He never mentioned he was suicidal. And he just left me here to face this world on my own. And after seeing how hard it affected everyone else, I couldn’t go through with it myself. I was so jealous that he got out so easy and I’m stuck here now.” — Danielle S.

7. Emptiness

“Emptiness, and not the emptiness you feel when you’re sad. No, it’s more than that. It’s like a giant hole that swallows up all possible hope in the aftermath. I’m lucky that my resilience and friends pulled me through, but for some it’s an emptiness that never goes away.” — Adele T.

“Emptiness. Still feel it. Lost my dad when I was 8 and he was missing for several weeks. Nearly 20 years has passed, and I just don’t feel deep emotion anymore. Now if someone dies, yeah it sucks and I feel bad, but it’s never as deep a pain as losing your parent to suicide. I feel like I’m broken because of this.” — Sam B.

Suicide loss is complicated, and healing takes time. If you’re a suicide loss survivor looking for support, the following stories are a good place to start:

Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

Originally published: October 2, 2018
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