A death by suicide is sudden and shocking. You may experience all kinds of emotions and physical reactions to the stress you are under. It will be particularly traumatic if you are the one who found the person who died, or had to identify them.

How you react is not necessarily determined by how close you were to the person. We all respond in different ways. Some of our reactions may include:

  • shock, numbness, disbelief
  • confusion or questioning – why? And what if?
  • sadness, rejection or helplessness
  • anger, blame or frustration
  • guilt, shame or whakamā
  • fear, anxiety
  • relief
  • not wanting to talk, or wanting to talk
  • crying or being unable to cry
  • feeling faint, sick or exhausted
  • having a tense, shaky or aching body
  • changes in appetite
  • headaches
  • difficulty concentrating, feeling forgetful or preoccupied
  • replaying difficult thoughts or mental images
  • looking for the person, or sensing their presence
  • seeing or dreaming about the person, or not seeing or dreaming about them when you want to
  • forgetting their voice when you think you shouldn’t
  • a sensation of time moving differently.

These emotions and feelings are part of the grief process. While completely normal, feelings of grief and shock can be difficult to handle. It may help to have a support person with you at this time, such as a friend or relative. They can give you emotional support and help with making phone calls and doing day-to-day chores.

People may also ask you how you’re feeling. This can be hard to answer sometimes, especially when you may be experiencing many emotions, including shock and numbness. 

‘People would ask me how I was doing. There was too much going on, I couldn't put it into words. If I really told them, it would be overwhelming for them and me. I finally figured out the best way for me to answer. I would simply reply ‘as expected.’   

If you’re not sure who you can talk to, helplines like 1737, Lifeline, Youthline or Samaritans are there to listen.

A Victim Support worker can also help by being present and providing support with practical information. A Victim Support worker may have been in touch with you already. If this hasn't happened yet, or previous contact with Victim Support was declined by you or a whānau/family member, you can still call Victim Support and engage with their service at any time - even if some time has passed.  

Victim Support have created a number of different resources for people after a suicide. You can access this information as downloadable resources here.

For more info on finding support and someone to talk to, see Find support - Tautoko.