Coping with your reactions after a suicide

The following suggestions come from others who have been bereaved by suicide.

(If you found the person, or witnessed what happened, also see here.)

  • Grieve in a way that’s right for you. Take things one day at a time. Only do what’s essential. Grief takes the time it needs. Don't be hurried by the expectations of others. It is normal to grieve in our own way. Others might be grieving differently from you - they might have different needs, and that’s okay. On days when you wonder if you’ll get through this, be reassured that you will, one day at a time.
     
  • Looking after yourself is important. Encourage others who have been affected to do the same. Eat healthy food. Drink enough water. Keep up routines and get good rest and sleep, as best you can. Do some simple exercise. Take some slow, deep breaths. Spend time with people you can relax with, or with a pet. Spend time in nature. If you find keeping busy helps, find useful tasks to do. See a doctor if you’re unwell, extremely anxious, or are having difficulty sleeping. Draw on any cultural or spiritual beliefs you may have. Accept caring offers from others if that would help.
     
  • Flashbacks. If you have a flashback, it feels as though you’re back in the middle of your traumatic experience or reliving some aspect of it. This can be in vivid detail and during a flashback it can be difficult and confusing to connect back to the present and to what is real. To better understand flashbacks and ways to manage them, see our information sheet Dealing with Flashbacks.
     
  • Express your thoughts and feelings. Find someone to talk to, write thoughts down, walk or run them out, punch a pillow, or cry when you need to.
     
  • Remember the person’s life. It is not how they died that counts the most. Think about and share good memories with others. Collect some memories together in a scrapbook or box. Find ways to honour their life - lighting a candle, making something special, or putting their photo up.
     
  • Connect with family, whānau, and friends. Everyone needs some time alone, but don’t lose touch with people who care about you. Ask for help when you need it, including from those who can give you cultural or spiritual support. (See Finding Support section)

  • Expect some painful reminders. Small things - a photo, a sound, a place, certain music, or a favourite food can suddenly cause deep emotion. Take some deep breaths. Cry if you need to. Our Dealing with Flashbacks information sheet provides helpful tips on how to cope if disturbing things are coming back to. These reminders are a normal part of traumatic grief.
     
  • Consider using Aoake te Rā,  the Bereaved by Suicide Service that supports people bereaved by suicide throughout Aotearoa. This is a free service that provides support and manaaki to individuals, whānau and communities who have lost someone to suicide.

  • Consider talking through what happened with a counsellor or psychologist. Many people find this helps because suicide bereavement can be traumatic and extremely painful.  Aoake te Ra can provide free counselling (as above), otherwise see :To find a counsellor or psychologist

  • It is a relief to have a distraction sometimes, to think about other things - doing chores, being at work, or spending time on an interest you have or in nature. All this can help to give difficult thoughts and emotions a rest.
     
  • Consider joining a peer support group for those bereaved or affected by suicide. Your Support Worker can let you know what is available. Meeting others who ‘get it’ can help a lot.
     
  • Expect setbacks. There will be good days and bad days for some time after your loss. Grief never happens in a predictable, straight line. Use the support available.
     
  •  Avoid:

           o    not talking to anyone – keeping it all inside adds stress

           o    using alcohol or drugs to blot out the grief – this can make things worse

           o    making big decisions quickly – best to wait until you’re thinking more clearly

           o    not seeking help – get support when it’s needed.

  • Remind yourself that your reactions are normal responses to a traumatic event. Even though it may not feel like it now, they will gradually lessen in the weeks and months to come.
     
  • While most people will gradually recover from a traumatic experience, some people may have continuing symptoms of trauma that are hard to cope with or get worse. It is very important to get professional help and advice as soon as possible. See your doctor, a counsellor, or ask your Support Worker about help that is available. You can call us 24/7 on 0800 842 846 to be connected with a Support Worker.
     
  • Feeling overwhelmed right now? Call us 24/7 on 0800 842 846 to be connected with a Support Worker or phone 1737, a free, confidential helpline to speak with a counsellor 24/7.
     
  • More tips for coping with your reactions

            To understand more about trauma and grief, and to learn ways to manage your reactions, see:

             o    Coping with Trauma
             o    When you are Grieving
             o    Dealing with Flashbacks

Supporting children and young people
See our information sheet After a suicide: Supporting a child or young person for ways to support them as they grieve – now and in the future.

The Mental Health Foundation offers this guide for having safe, open, honest and compassionate kōrero/conversations about suicide with your taiohi/young people. Connecting through Kōrero: Talking about suicide with taiohi/young people

Other useful websites and information

After a suicide (NZ)

Aoake te Rā  NZ's Bereaved by Suicide Service

 

Downloads

Coping with Trauma
When you are Grieving
Dealing with flashbacks
After a suicide: Supporting a child or young person
If you discover or witness a suicide death
After a suicide: Managing media interest