The loss of someone you have been close to from any cause brings about intense grief and mourning. But the responses and emotions experienced by the bereaved following a suicide often differ from those felt after other types of death. The fact that loved one's death appeared to involve an element of choice raises painful questions which deaths from natural or accidental causes do not. Bereavement by suicide is prolonged. Research suggests that the shock, social isolation and guilt are often greater than for other causes of death. The grieving process is characterised by agonising questioning and a search for some explanation for what has happened. Some people bereaved in this way feel a strong sense of abandonment and rejection. Whilst some of the special aspects of bereavement by suicide are described below, not all will be relevant to your own experience of grief.
The sense of shock and disbelief following a death of this kind may be very intense. A common and disturbing aspect of grief after suicide is recurring images of the death, even if this was not witnessed. The finding of the body may be another traumatic and indelible event. Going over and over the very frightening and painful images of the death, and the feeling these create, is a natural need at such time.
Most newly bereaved people will ask 'why?' However bereavement through suicide often involves a prolonged search for a reason or explanation for the tragedy. Many people bereaved by suicide eventually come to accept that they will never really know the reason why a loved one did what they did. During this search for explanations, different members of the same family may have very different ideas as to why a death happened. This may strain family relationship, particularly where an element of blame is involved.
It's common to go over and over how the death might have been prevented. Reliving what might have been done to save a loved one from suicide is a common experience of the bereaved. Everything can seem painfully obvious in retrospect. The 'what ifs' may seem endless: 'what if I had picked up on that warning comment or sign? What if I had not been away that weekend? Rewinding events, in ones mind or conversation, is a natural and necessary way of coping with what has happened. Research suggests those who have lost someone through suicide tend to suffer greater guilt, self-blame and self-questioning during bereavement than those who have been bereaved in some other way. While this is certainly not true of everyone, for some bereaved people feelings of guilt may be difficult.
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