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University Counseling Center

Survivors of Suicide

Survivors of suicide are the friends and families of people who commit suicide. It is estimated that there are at least six survivors for any one suicide. Grief from experiencing a loved one’s suicide can be intense, shocking and painful. There is no one way to experience grief or recover from it. Some common reactions include:

anger guilt
anxiety shame
bitterness blame
confusion depression
despair detachment
feelings of distraction disbelief
fear helplessness
hopelessness irritability
loneliness loss of pleasure
numbness being overwhelmed
preoccupation sadness
shock vulnerability


Survivors often struggle with understanding why the suicide occurred and feel guilty that they couldn’t prevent it. Often survivors experience the stigma of suicide and feel shameful or embarrassed to reach out for support. It can be difficult for friends and family to know how to reach out to a survivor, especially because of misunderstandings about suicide and mental health. Support is valuable for survivors as they deal with their feelings. Talking about their feelings and loved ones can be useful and help survivors in their recovery.

Coping as a Survivor

Take care of your health. Continuing to eat well, get sufficient sleep, and otherwise take care of your body will help you have the energy you need to get through this time.

Give yourself time. You may feel somewhat slowed down and require time away from your normal activities. Make these allowances as needed.

Spend time with the memory of the person that has been lost. Allow yourself to think and talk about that person as much as you feel you need to.

Talk to others. You don’t need to go through this time alone. Talk to those who you find are sensitive and supportive about your loss.

Seek out counseling if you find you do not have sufficient support. The University Counseling Center offers counseling services as well as a 24 hour, 7 day-a-week crisis on-call service. You can make an appointment during business hours or reach the on-call service at any time by calling 275-3113.

How to Help a Survivor

The most important thing you can do is listen – nonjudgmentally, supportively, compassionately. Not knowing what to say is fine, being there is more important. You may need to educate yourself about suicide in order to be present in a nonjudgmental way for the survivor.

Let the survivor talk when and how much they want to – don’t try to force it out of them or encourage them to talk before they feel ready.

Use the person’s name who died rather than just he or she.

Don’t tell them how to act or what they ‘should’ be doing to manage their grief – everyone’s experience is different.

Accept that their feelings may be intense and overwhelming. Get support for yourself if you need to.

If you have concerns about someone being suicidal, call x13 for Security in an emergency situation or call UCC (585) 275-3113 for help.

Related Links

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention