Survivors of suicide loss

Historian Arnold Toynbee once wrote, "There are always two parties to a death; the person who dies and the survivors who are bereaved."

A survivor of suicide is a family member or friend of a person who died by suicide. It is estimated that for every suicide there are at least 6 survivors, which many believe is a conservative estimate. Based on this estimate, approximately five million Americans have become survivors of suicide in the last 25 years.

With suicide, survivors face not only the loss of someone close to them, but also the difficult feelings connected to the way the person died. Many survivors struggle to understand the reasons for the suicide, asking themselves "Why?" over and over again.

What Helps Survivors Heal After a Death from Suicide?

It is important to take care of yourself following the death of a friend of family member by suicide.

It’s important to recognize that grief does not follow a linear path, nor does it always move in a forward direction. There is also no time frame for grief. Healing after a death from suicide will be a very personal and individual process for every survivor.

Some common emotions experienced with grief are:

Shock                           Stress                              Rejection                       Confusion                          

Guilt                             Helplessness                   Denial                            Anger

Despair                         Disbelief                         Sadness                          Loneliness

Self-blame                    Depression                      Pain                                Shame

Hopelessness                Numbness                      Abandonment                 Anxiety

Supporting Survivors

Friends and family close to survivors can offer support in different ways, whether or not they themselves have survived a suicide loss. Survivors may be hesitant to reach out to friends or acquaintances because of the stigma that still surrounds suicide.

 Before you assume responsibilities, it’s important to ask survivors whether they need or want your help. Some survivors gain strength from performing tasks, while others prefer to rely on friends or family.

Ways to help:


Children as Survivors

It is a myth that children don’t grieve. Children may experience the same range of feelings as adults. Though deeply affected by a death by suicide, children and adolescents may not have developed the same coping skills as adults and it may be many years before they are able to fully process the loss. Young people need help and guidance from trusted adults to mourn the loss of a loved one and cope with the range of feelings that come when dealing with a suicide. Children are especially vulnerable to feelings of guilt and abandonment. It is important that they know the death was not their fault and that a trusted adult is there to take care of them.

 Ways to support children after a suicide:

Recognizing Warning Signs and Risk Factors

Experiencing a suicide loss can make maintaining health, including mental health, difficult. For some survivors, losing a friend or loved one to suicide may elevate the risk for thinking about, attempting or even dying by suicide. It’s important for people to be familiar with warning signs, risk factors and protective factors.

 Warning Signs of Suicide:

 Risk Factors of Suicide:

 Protective Factors

The key to almost all of the protective factors is the relationship between the survivor and the source of support. Relationships help people cope with loss and build resilience.

Information adapted from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the American Association of Suicidology. 

1. Survivors of Suicide Loss Support Group
Atonement Lutheran Church
 4601 South University.
Fargo, ND 58103
Contact: Mary J. Weiler
(701) 219.4110
Meetings per Month: One - Contact us for more details.
Serves Statewide and Clay County, Minnesota
2. Teen survivor group
Atonement Lutheran Church
4601 South University, Fargo ND 58103
Contact: Mary J Weiler
(701) 219.4110
3. The Lossed-adolescent and young adult survivor of suicide loss
Contact Brenda Bergan at 701-426-1021