When your child dies by suicide You may wish to click on the following links to jump to a specific section of this page: Why am I experiencing so many different emotions? Why do I feel guilty and angry? Why am I grieving differently from my partner? Dealing with the reactions of others Looking after yourself Connect with others Making memories Managing special occasions Share your worries? The death of a child is one of the hardest things anyone will ever have to face. The death by suicide of a young person, who had their life and potential ahead of them, is particularly impactful; the repercussions of their death are likely to be felt not only by their family but also by their friends and the wider community. For the family, the impact will be immense and the grieving process may be complex and intense. Why am I experiencing so many different emotions? I’m afraid dealing with reality was very hard for a long, long time. I couldn’t believe this had happened, I couldn’t believe it. Roz, whose son died by suicide aged 28 Feelings of extreme distress, shock and disbelief are normal on discovering that your child has died by suicide. The first few days are likely to be dominated by practical issues which focus around how they died. You may feel a strong desire to find answers or you may feel completely numb and detached. These reactions are natural and it’s important to know that everyone reacts differently - there is no wrong or right way to feel. Why do I feel guilty and angry? Nothing can prepare you for the suicide of your child. In some cases they may have appeared depressed and expressed negative feelings, but in others you may have been completely unaware of their state of mind. As a parent you naturally want to protect your child and stop anything bad happening to them; when bereaved by suicide, feelings of guilt and anger are very common. You may be preoccupied by thoughts that you could perhaps have prevented your child from ending their own life or that something you did caused them to act on thoughts of suicide. You may be angry with yourself for not noticing that they were distressed or feel angry with your child for leaving you by ending their life. You may also feel angry with services that you feel were not there to help your child or adequately protect them. It's natural to feel like this and you may revisit these emotions frequently as the reality of what has happened takes hold. Allow and accept these difficult feelings and consider sharing how you feel with someone you trust or with a bereavement support professional. Over time you can start to think more about the positive things in your child’s life but be aware that this will take time. Why am I grieving differently from my partner? The way two people in a relationship deal with grief can sometimes differ. When a child dies by suicide you may find you are grieving differently at different times, which can put additional strain on your relationship. Sometimes one of you may be very focused on your grief while the other is concentrating on practical aspects of your loss, or trying to ‘keep going’. This is normal in couples and being aware that you may both move between these two states can help you to accommodate each other’s needs and not let it become a source of additional stress at what is already an extremely difficult time. Dealing with the reactions of other people As well as coping with your own feelings, you may also have to deal with the emotional reactions of others, such as other members of the family or their friends. You may also find it difficult to deal with others and the social stigma which can sometimes, unhelpfully, exist around suicide. At first I couldn’t tell anybody anything, I didn’t want to, because I felt embarrassed about what had happened to Richie. Although you may feel you don’t want to share the reason your child died, this can increase feelings of isolation so it can help to share the basic facts so that you can limit any intrusion, distressing questioning or speculation. It might be helpful to have people around you who are supportive and can, for instance, break the news to others for you and help to deal with any difficult questions. When you go back to work, it may help to think about what you want to tell others about your child and how much you feel comfortable sharing. You are under no obligation to share all the facts about your child’s death but if you feel comfortable sharing and you think it may help you to share, that’s OK; it may be that you could agree with your line manager a way to manage your return to work and how / if you wish to communicate with others around your bereavement. Looking after yourself Looking after your physical wellbeing, even in small ways, can help to reduce feelings of exhaustion, isolation and helplessness. Although it may be difficult, it can help to try to keep to healthy routines, such as regular mealtimes and bedtimes, and to get outside for fresh air and eat a balanced diet. You may find sleeping difficult but try to sleep when you can and reduce things that may prevent you from sleeping such as alcohol and caffeine. If you find it difficult to sleep, keep a sleep diary so that you can notice how your sleep pattern has changed and what does and doesn’t help. Click here for more on looking after yourself. Connect with others Connecting with other people who are supportive can help you feel less alone in your grief. You could do something together that you enjoy, such as going for a walk or meeting for a coffee. You may be more likely to treat yourself if you are with someone else, and sharing time together may give you a break from stressful thoughts. I’ve had two particular friends that have been absolutely fantastic that in the early days I could talk to every single day and any time of day, that’s how I dealt with it really. Some parents find it helpful to meet with others who have had similar experiences at a time when it can feel like others simply cannot understand what you are going through. I’ve become quite friendly with some of the other people who are in the same situation as me. Involving your child’s friends Some families find it helpful to include their child’s friends in events to remember their child or in creating any memorials. Young people often have very intense and meaningful relationships outside of the immediate family and for some parents it can be validating to know that others cared for their child and are also grieving. However, it’s important to be aware that there may have been aspects of your child’s life about which you had no knowledge and which you may find upsetting. You may also find it difficult to deal with their grief on top of your own, so make sure that you don’t put yourself under too much pressure. Making memories You may be overwhelmed with negative thoughts or even flashbacks about your child, speculation about their state of mind, and guilt and anger that you could not prevent them from ending their own life. However, in time it can help to start trying to make positive memories. You might keep a journal in which you write things you remember about your child and include photographs, poems, letters, and anecdotes from family and friends. I wanted his memory to be alive the whole time, and in fact I couldn’t stop talking about him. Some families choose to make a memory box or jar which they fill with things that remind them of their child. Click here for more ideas on remembering someone who has died. As a young child he was so funny, he was cheeky – he was always laughing and would do anything to help anybody. Some families find doing something like fundraising or campaigning helps to make meaning of their child’s life. If this is right for you, it can be helpful but it is not for everyone. It’s important to give yourself time to grieve. People have said, treasure those memories, think about all those positive things about Richie. And that’s what we’ve done. I’ve laughed about times that we’ve had together – looked at lots of different photos. Focusing on the positive side of life is the best way that’s helped me go forward. Managing special occasions When you are grieving, days like birthdays and anniversaries, and occasions like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Christmas and other religious festivals can feel painful and difficult to manage. There’s no wrong or right way to mark a special occasion. Don’t feel you need to stick to a plan or conform to what other people expect of you or what they are doing. If you wake up feeling like you’d like to do something different, or nothing at all, that’s fine. Some families find it helpful to visit a place that their child loved or that reminds them of them while others like to look at photographs or to do something creative in their memory such as writing in a journal or creating an artwork. There is no right or wrong way to mark a special occasion – just do what feels right and is helpful for you and your family. When we have birthdays and Christmas, and especially Richie’s birthday and the anniversary – they’re the dates that are the hardest. It’s leading up to those dates that people think – what are we going to do? You don’t want to celebrate – it’s not a great big party but it’s their birthday and I’ve always wanted to do something, so I usually go out with my family – and go to nice places that he used to love. Share your worries When someone dies in traumatic circumstances, the process of grieving can be particularly challenging. You may find it difficult to talk to anyone about the death and you may experience upsetting, intrusive thoughts, find it hard to enjoy anything and feel prolonged feelings of anger or guilt. Although it may feel difficult, it may be helpful to share any worries with a supportive friend or family member, or you may want to talk to someone neutral, such as a bereavement support practitioner. Peer support groups run by an experienced bereavement support practitioner can also provide a safe space for support. Going to the group sessions which involved people in similar circumstances made me bring up a lot of the things that were hidden inside me that I couldn’t discuss with a lot of other people – you don’t always want to talk – but at the support group you know you’re in a safe place to talk to those people that have dealt with the same thing.