Coping With Loss

Death by suicide not only affects the person who died, but those who cared about them. These friends and loved ones are called suicide survivors. If you are a suicide survivor, processing the loss of a person might be one of the more difficult experiences you’ve needed to navigate. There is no one way, or specifically helpful way to grieve, as we all experience grief differently. Still, it can be helpful to recognize some of the feelings you may experience, to know you are not alone in your grief, and to understand that you may never get over the loss of a person, but you can learn to persist through it.

Understanding Stages of Grief

Shock and grief can exhaust you after you lose someone to suicide, and you may find that it all becomes quite overwhelming. It might feel like you’re walking through a dark, never-ending tunnel that you can’t see a way out of. These are natural feelings which will likely vary as you move through your grieving process. No two people experience loss in the same way, and the order in which people experience stages of grief may vary. Some physical symptoms such as headaches, changes in appetite, and/or shifts in sleeping patterns may also impact you. A person in grief may experience some or all of the following feelings in any order:

Shock: I feel numb Open
Denial: I feel fine Open
Guilt: I think it was my fault Open
Sadness: Why bother with anything? Open
Anger: How could they do this? Open
Acceptance: I can miss them and still live my life. Open

What makes suicide different?

Losing a friend or loved one is never easy, and when you lose someone by suicide, it can feel different from other types of loss. Several circumstances can make death by suicide different, which makes the healing process more challenging.

Stigma and Isolation:

Talking about suicide can be difficult for those who have experienced the loss. Each culture and religion views suicide in different ways, and sometimes discussing it can be a challenge depending on the environment you are in. Suicide can be isolating because the shared loss in a community is being grieved by survivors very differently. Finding the right people in your support network who are able to help you move through your loss is important. Sometimes, this may mean seeking professional assistance in order to help you cope with your loss. During these times, we recommend that UIW students contact UIW Behavioral Health Services or a local therapist, and that faculty and staff contact the Employee Assistance Program or a therapist local to you.

Various Emotions:

When a death is by suicide, you might mourn the person’s death while also managing strong feelings about the circumstances surrounding their death. Feelings of anger, abandonment, and rejection can all occur after a suicide at the same time as positive feelings about the deceased themselves. Sorting through these diverse feelings can make the healing process more challenging.

Wanting to Understand:

Understanding the circumstances of a death by suicide can sometimes lead us to asking, “Why did this happen to this person?” You may second guess your own actions, wish that you had noticed signs earlier, or wished you had done something differently. This need to understand why may be a difficult road to navigate, as the circumstances surrounding the person’s death could be unclear or not readily known. Some questions may never be answered. Sometimes you will find answers to your questions, while other times, you must learn to accept the fact that there are some things no one can know or understand.

Risk for Survivors:

People who have recently experienced a loss by suicide are at increased risk for having suicidal thoughts themselves. After living through a death by suicide, it’s not uncommon to wish you were dead or to feel like the pain is unbearable. Remember, having suicidal thoughts does not mean that you will act on them. These feelings and thoughts will likely decrease over time, but if you find them too intense, or if you’re considering putting your thoughts into action, seek support from a mental health professional.

Healthy Ways to Cope with Grief and Loss

You may never get over the loss, but you can get through the loss. You have been changed by this loss, but you can learn how to survive and develop from this challenge. The following are suggestions for healing in healthy, holistic ways:

Seek Support Open
Be Patient Open
Stay Present Open
Give Yourself Permission to Have Fun Open
Establish a Routine Open
Self-Care Open


  • Grief after losing someone to suicide can be full of intense high and low points, it’s natural to move between them. 
  • There are healthy ways to cope with your loss. 
  • Resources are available on campus and to help you with your academic and emotional needs. 
  • Reach out to friends, family, and supportive others when you want to talk or need distraction. 
  • If the intensity of your grief does not ease over time, seek support from UIW Behavioral Health Services or a community mental health professional. 
  • You may never get over your loss but over time, you can become more resilient and able to get through it