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What Can I Do If a Loved One Commits Suicide?

Updated on March 19, 2015
GarnetBird profile image

Gloria taught for many years, and also worked as a mental health group facilitator.

Suicide can happen in the very best of families.
Suicide can happen in the very best of families. | Source
Too Often depression is seen as an alien affliction..
Too Often depression is seen as an alien affliction..

By Gloria Siess

Many years ago, an ordained Methodist Minister greeted his family with his usual reserve. They were gathered for a typical Midwestern breakfast on a bleak, snowy day. No one noticed anything unusual about his demeanor as he left the table and walked out towards the barn. Hours passed, and curious, the family braved the icy ground and entered the barn in search of him. They found him dangling from a noose, neck broken, a sad testament to the sudden shocking power of suicide.

A tiny piece in the local newspaper listed his death, and his name was rarely, if ever spoken of again. The conservative religious community found it too shameful to speak of, as did the remaining relatives. This man was a relative of mine by marriage, a person looked up to in his community and congregation. Apparently, his depression and sense of impending doom had not been apparent to anyone, not even his wife and children.

As any therapist will attest, suicide itself does not have a true genetic link. However, depression and other forms of mental illness certainly do. Ernest Hemingway's granddaughter also committed suicide, as did his own father during a time of financial crisis. I experienced a severe bout of almost-unbearable depression in my early thirties and had to be briefly hospitalized. I later found out that my natural mother (whom I had never met) was hospitalized for depression at the very same age. I pulled through my depression with the help of good medication and a few good friends, but not everyone bounces back.

Some families, despite talent and religious conviction, can harbor such secrets. The shame and horror that a suicide brings to a family is extreme. It cannot be overcome in isolation. If someone you loved has taken his or her own life, do not suffer alone. There are support groups and help lines to guide you through a period of mourning in a safe atmosphere. Above all, be good to yourself and stay away from creating shrines to your loved ones memory, or visiting graves on a regular basis. This behavior keeps you stuck, unable to move forward and heal. Set little goals for yourself on a daily basis, and reward yourself with a treat when you do such activities. One woman I know rewards herself with a visit to a local vintage shop whenever she completes the family laundry. Suffering in isolation and shame will guarantee that you will mourn longer. Be good to yourself. Remember the things you loved as a child and bring back some of the joys of childhood. Never allow rude persons to pry into your feelings with painful questions. Set good boundaries. It takes about one year for grief to really subside and life to return to normal. Be patient with your own journey of healing.

Here are some resources to help you find support:

1-800-273-8255 (

Local churches often have programs known as "Grief Share," which can provide wonderful support in a safe, caring environment. You do not need to believe in God or the standards of the church in order to join. Above all, do not let the shock and shame haunt you. Get support and be kind to yourself.


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    • GarnetBird profile image

      Gloria Siess 2 years ago from Wrightwood, California

      Yes, it is very hard to heal oneself alone. Thank you for reading and commenting.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 2 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      I agree one has to take help if needed to get out of the pain and shock and heal oneself so that one gets out of the depression.

    • GarnetBird profile image

      Gloria Siess 2 years ago from Wrightwood, California

      Thank seems once suicide enters the family tree it tends to be repeated. We have had 3 that I know of in my direct family line.

    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      I have a good friend who once shared with me that her mother had committed suicide. She talked about the pain and heartache she suffered as a result of her mother's choice, as well as her desire to not have her own children suffer as she had. Unfortunately, one of her own children also committed suicide. It has been very difficult for her, but she has kept her own resolve and found ways to be emotionally healthy in spite of what she has been through.

    • GarnetBird profile image

      Gloria Siess 2 years ago from Wrightwood, California

      Yes, it does. 2 of my relatives died this way. My heart goes out to you!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

      As a teen, a friend of mine committed suicide. In addition, several people in my extended family have done so. It impacts the family in unexpected ways forever.

    • GarnetBird profile image

      Gloria Siess 2 years ago from Wrightwood, California

      Yes, assisted suicide is a hot topic now. Thank you, Bob!

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 2 years ago from UK and Mexico

      HI: A very topical problem. Along with suicide because of depression comes assisted suicide for elderly people with incurable disease, or who have just had enough of a dispiriting existence.

      I don't feel qualified to comment further, but I read your article with interest.