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  • Brittany Montes, Psy. D.

Coping with Suicide Loss

Suicide is one of the leading causes of death for adults in the United States with approximately 48,183 deaths in 2021 (CDC, 20230). So much so that leading agencies, including the CDC, have listed suicide as an epidemic. According to the American Association of Suicidology (2023) each completed suicide leaves behind approximately 130 people who report knowing the individual who has died. AAS (2023) further projects that approximately 1/3 of these survivors felt very close to the person who had died. However, despite the prevalent nature of suicide, it remains heavily stigmatized and rarely discussed. This often leaves survivors of suicide loss feeling alone and isolated in their complicated grief.

Coping with suicide loss

Unfortunately, the impact of suicide loss is far-reaching and long-lasting in nature. Tal Young et al. (2012) note that survivors of suicide are more likely to develop major depressive disorders, PTSD, prolonged/complicated grief, and to exhibit suicidal behaviors themselves. In fact, their research found that suicide survivors are 1.6 times more likely to experience suicidal thoughts, 2.9 times more likely to formulate a suicide plan, and 3.7 times more likely to attempt suicide within the first year of the loss. Grief is complicated by the survivor’s tendency to blame themselves for the loss of their loved one (Tal Young et al., 2012).

The American Association of Suicidology (2023) have also found that suicide loss survivors deal with an underlying need to understand why their loved one felt suicide was the only option. This is further complicated by feelings of rejection and abandonment by their loved ones (Tal Young et al., 2012). Additionally, many survivors experience an added layer of guilt as they feel relieved that their loved one is no longer suffering from long-standing and severe psychiatric disorders. While uncomfortable and difficult to understand, the American Association of Suicidology (2023) notes that this is a normal emotion.

With regard to working through the grief, the American Association of Suicidology (2023) stresses that grief is not linear in nature and that it does not always move in a forward direction. Additionally, it is important to adjust your expectations when grieving the loss of a loved one by suicide. Specifically, it is important to recognize the need to adjust to life without their loved one rather than returning life to how it was before the loss.

Alvord et al. (2019) stress the importance of accepting your emotions as they come. Further, worrying about how you “should” feel or what you “should” be doing likely only complicates the grief further. Additionally, taking care of yourself as you journey through your grief will be vitally important in the healing process. Finally, authors recommend leaning into your social support systems and reaching out for help from qualified professionals (Alvord et al., 2019).

Suicide is a complex and difficult issue that our country faces on a daily basis. Those who have died from suicide often leave behind a vast social network that is deeply impacted by their loss. The grief associated with the loss of a loved one to suicide is complicated and difficult. Further, stigma prevents survivors from reaching out for help, putting them at increased risk for suicide and other mental health conditions themselves. However, with support from families, professionals, and communities, survivors can learn to live a full and happy life again.

If you or someone you love is experiencing suicidal ideation, please call the National Crisis Line (988) or present to your closest emergency room for immediate assistance.

About the Author

Dr. Montes is a licensed clinical psychologist and co-owner of Cognitive Behavior Therapy Center in Chesapeake, VA.


American Association of Suicidology. (2023, June 1). Suicide loss survivors. American Association of Suicidology.

Alvord, M., Kaslow, N., Owens, S., & Gurwitch, R. (2019, October 25). Coping after suicide loss. American Psychological Association.,you%20the%20strength%20to%20cope.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2023, August 10). Preventing Suicide. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Tal Young, I., Iglewicz, A., Glorioso, D., Lanouette, N., Seay, K., Ilapakurti, M., & Zisook, S. (2012, June). Suicide bereavement and complicated grief. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience.

The University of Texas at Austin Counseling and Mental Health Center. (2023). Coping with losing a friend, partner, or family member to suicide. Be That One - Coping With Losing a Friend or Family Member to Suicide.

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