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Suicide Loss: Help Coping Afterward with Support

With this week’s news headlines of well-known people — fashion icon Kate Spade and world-renowned chef Anthony Bourdain — taking their own lives, it brings attention and heightened awareness to suicide prevention.  Of course, there are thousands of non-famous people who commit suicide every year leaving many loved ones struggling to pick up the pieces. So what about those who are left behind? How do they cope with suicide loss?

Coping with Suicide Loss

If individuals suffer the suicide of a loved one, they may need help processing grief. But what type of assistance would best meet their needs?  Some may have experienced a recent suicide loss and feel an immediate need for help. Others may have experienced a loss that occurred months ago or even longer but still seem to be stuck in the loss and are struggling with feelings and responses. So what is best for addressing grief? Is it individual (one-on-one) counseling or a grief support sharing group? Or both?

At Chapters Health System and its affiliates —Good Shepherd Hospice, HPH Hospice and LifePath Hospice, individual counseling and grief support groups are available for those in the community who have suffered the death of a loved one.

Ed McWilliams, a bereavement specialist with LifePath Hospice, shared the following:

suicide lossIndividual counseling with a trained bereavement counselor is normally best in the following instances:

  • The loss of a loved one occurred very recently.
  • You might still be in shock or disbelief, and you are not sure you “can hold it together” in the presence of someone outside your family or closest circle of acquaintances.
  • Your emotions may be so raw and spontaneous that meeting individually or privately with a counselor would seem safer and allow you to comfortably express your feelings.
  • You need an opportunity to experience healing at a pace or time that is tailored to your situation.

 Grief support groups are also led by trained bereavement counselors and vary in length, frequency, time of day and focus. Here are some advantages of group grief support:

  • It can be comforting to know that others can identify and empathize with your loss and how you are feeling or responding.
  • It can be helpful for you to hear and consider how others are coping and then learn from their experiences.
  • The group setting reinforces that others are indeed “walking in your shoes” in many ways and circumstances.
  • Group environments foster feelings of encouragement and support from others that may help and inspire you.

Everyone grieves differently. While people may share some commonalities in their experiences, no two are exactly alike. Consequently, respect and accept what you have in common with others and what is unique to you. No one should be told how he or she should think and feel, especially following a suicide loss. Talking with others and having people listen without judging can help healing.

It is perfectly plausible to experience an array of emotions following a suicide loss. Confusion, disorientation, fear, shame, anger and guilt are just a few emotions experienced during the grief journey.

suicide lossAfter a suicide, many people left behind feel guilt and question how the death could have been prevented. It is important for survivors to acknowledge the fact the only person truly responsible for the death was the person who took his or her own life.  Additionally, it is normal and natural for those faced with suicide loss to want to understand why the person they loved took his or her own life. Survivors might have to accept that they will never fully and truly understand why.

Memories are one of the best legacies that exist after the death of someone loved. If at first memories are dominated by thoughts of the death itself, suicide loss survivors will realize this is a normal and necessary step on the path to healing. Over time, they will be able to remember the love and the good times.

Reconciling grief will not happen quickly. Grief is a process, not a disease or an event. There are no quick fixes for what people feel. Don’t set a specific timetable for how long it should take to heal following a suicide loss.  A suicide death changes many lives forever.

If you or a loved one are having suicidal thoughts, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). Calls are confidential and lines are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. For a list of additional resources, go here.

At Chapters Health System and its affiliatesGood Shepherd Hospice, HPH Hospice and LifePath Hospice, every day is devoted to educating our patients and keeping them in the place they call home. We are dedicated to ensuring that patients, young and old alike, and their families are able to make educated decisions about important healthcare matters. For more information, please call our helpful Chapters Health team at 1.866.204.8611 or send an email to

About Phoebe Ochman

Phoebe Ochman, Director of Corporate Communications for Chapters Health System, manages all content and communications for the not-for-profit organization.

Bereavement Support Group Information

All Chapters Health bereavement support groups serve to help people navigate and cope after suffering the loss of a loved one. Participants are encouraged to share feelings and responses in a safe environment with bereavement specialists who facilitate the groups.

The Suicide Loss Group at the Circle of Love Center began in January 2017 and is held on the second and fourth Tuesday nights of each month from 6 to 7:30 p.m. This support group is open to the community. The center also offers support groups for grieving children, teens and adults throughout the year. There is no charge for support groups.

For more information and to register for support groups at LifePath Hospice in Hillsborough County, please call 813.877.2200.

The Bethany Center at Good Shepherd Hospice and the HPH Hospice Center for Grieving Children offer adult grief support groups designed to provide survivors with education to help cope with their emotions, new roles in life and plans for the future. Groups are scheduled at various locations on an ongoing basis. Pre-registration is required, and groups are open to all community members who have experienced the death of a loved one, regardless of how the death occurred. In addition, children’s grief services are also available to meet the special needs of children and teens coping with the death of a loved one. Both grief centers provide age-specific services and caring support in a safe environment.

To learn more about the grief support provided by Good Shepherd Hospice to residents in Polk, Highlands and Hardee counties, please call our helpful Good Shepherd Hospice Bereavement Department at 863.968.1707.

To learn more about the grief support provided by HPH Hospice to residents in Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties, please call our helpful HPH Hospice Bereavement Department at 727.863.7971.




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