Losing a parent by suicide can lead to feelings of anger, guilt, and regret. Coping strategies, tools, and other resources can help manage those feelings.
The loss of a parent can be one of the most emotionally difficult events in a person’s life. Losing a parent by suicide can add additional layers to the grieving process.
If you or someone you know has lost a parent by suicide, you’re probably feeling some very powerful emotions.
There’s no simple solution for grief, but many resources can help you understand and work through it.
Everyone deals with loss differently, and there’s no right way to grieve. You might find solace in the company of family or friends, retreat into isolation, or throw yourself into your work.
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), most people will recover from loss with time and social support, but this experience isn’t universal.
Grieving the loss of a loved one is difficult, even when the loss is expected. Some
- anger and frustration
- physical pain such as headache or muscle tension
- increased risk of infection
- periods of intense sadness and depression
- trouble sleeping
- decreased appetite
- inability to concentrate
The grieving process can take weeks, months, or even years. There’s no time limit on grief.
Some people experience distinct stages of grief, but that’s not the case for every person.
Research from 2018 shows that most people don’t pass sequentially through these stages, and many experience overlapping or disordered stages.
Try to let yourself fully feel your emotions, whatever feelings you might experience.
Grieving is often a difficult process. Try to give yourself space and time to process your feelings.
If you’ve lost a parent by suicide, you may also be dealing with feelings of guilt, regret, or anger. You might wonder what you could’ve done differently.
These kinds of feelings are difficult but not uncommon. It’s important to know that suicide is nobody’s fault.
If you find it challenging to move forward or are having intense emotions, you may be experiencing complicated grief, aka prolonged grief disorder.
If you feel like you’ll never get over your loss, or months have gone by, and you don’t feel any different, you’re not alone. According to research from 2018, between 2.4% and 6.7% share this experience.
Complicated grief is a mental health diagnosis. It was added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5) in 2020.
If you feel your grief isn’t improving, or you’re having trouble coping with the demands of daily life, consider speaking with a mental health professional.
Grieving a parent’s suicide can be overwhelming. Consider trying these strategies to help you work through your grief and sense of loss.
Connecting with others
You may find solace in speaking with friends and loved ones, whether about the person who died or nothing in particular.
You might ask friends and family to share stories about your parent — things they remember, loved, or admired.
It’s OK if you’re not ready to talk about your parent. You may find the routine and mundane comforting. Something simple such as seeing a movie with a friend can help you feel grounded or more like yourself.
Try sharing, recording, or simply remembering fond memories of your parent. You can create a scrapbook, memory journal, blog, or memorial to help you and others remember and honor your parent.
If your parent had a unique daily routine, quirk, or mannerism, consider making it part of your routine. If they always tossed their keys in a bowl at the end of their day, for example, you might want to use the same bowl for your keys.
If your parent was particularly passionate about an activity, hobby, or interest, you can try participating in it.
Other ways you can honor your parent include:
- preparing their favorite meal
- hiking their favorite trail
- watching a movie they loved
Ask for help
Try to remember that those around you probably want to help you in any way. They may offer to:
- make you dinner
- give you a ride
- mow your lawn
They may even offer to just be there when you need to talk. It’s OK to ask for help.
Consider grief counseling, support groups, or connecting with a mental health professional if you’re feeling overwhelmed.
If your faith is important to you, you can speak with a religious leader or a member of your congregation.
It might feel like others don’t understand how you feel — like they don’t get it.
If you’re having trouble relating with others, consider finding a support group for people who have lost a loved one by suicide. Talking with people who share similar experiences can be comforting.
When those feelings of isolation and abandonment overwhelm you, try some affirmations to counter those negative thoughts.
- “I’m not alone.”
- “There are people in my life who want to support me.”
- “I’m whole.”
- “I’m understood.”
- “There are still things I can be grateful for.”
There are people who care about you and want to help. You only have to ask.
If these feelings get to be too much, consider reaching out to a mental health professional.
If someone you know has experienced the loss of a parent by suicide, consider trying these strategies.
- Listen: Try to be an active and engaged listener. Acknowledging and validating their feelings can bring comfort and show them how much you care.
- Acknowledge: Losing someone by suicide, especially a parent, can come with unique complications. Acknowledge the reality of the situation and the feelings of the person who’s grieving.
- Express: Make sure that your friend or loved one knows you’re there for them, you care for them, and you know it’s difficult.
- Reflect: Use active listening practices to reflect what you’re hearing and show them you’re listening. Honest conversations about difficult feelings can help people better work through them.
- Ask: Ask them about their feelings. If they need any help, ask how you can help. Sometimes it’s easier to accept an offer of help than it is to ask for it.
Talking with someone you trust can be a great first step. A healthcare professional may also be able to help.
They can guide you in the next steps — whether that’s recommending a mental health professional or providing resources about groups or support near you.
If you’d like to speak with a mental health professional but don’t know where to start, you can check out Psych Central’s hub on finding mental health support.
If you’re looking for additional resources, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline has a list of resources for survivors of suicide loss.
Other sources that may be helpful include:
Losing a parent is never easy, and losing a parent by suicide can be even more difficult.
Healing from grief takes time, but you’re not alone. There are people who understand what you’re going through and want to help.
Asking for help, finding support, and honoring your parent by remembering them are just a few ways you can work through your loss and start to heal.