When you hear about a suicide

After hearing about the suicide of someone you love or someone close to you, the first days can seem like a blur. There is a lot of information to take in, difficult decisions to make and hard things to deal with. It is important to look after yourself.

Reactions and feelings

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.

Even if you weren’t very close to the person, you might react in different ways.

Normal reactions include:

  • shock, numbness

  • disbelief

  • confusion

  • anger

  • blame

  • guilt

  • shame or whakamā

  • distress

  • fear, panic

  • helplessness

  • feeling faint or sick

  • not wanting to talk, or wanting to talk.

These emotions and feelings, while completely normal, can be difficult to handle. It can help you to have a support person with you at this time, such as a friend or a relative. They can give you emotional support and help with day-to-day chores, make phone calls and take messages.

If you’re not sure who you can talk to, a helpline like 1737LifelineYouthline or Samaritans can be there to listen.

Victim Support volunteer can also help by being present and providing support with practical information around immediate needs.

Understanding what has happened

A suicide may leave you with lots of questions that are difficult or impossible to answer. You might feel a strong need to understand exactly what happened and why. This is a part of trying to take it all in and make sense of it.

However, it is important to remember that not every question can be answered. Agencies involved in investigating the death, such as police, can not always share information with close family members, whānau or others.

It may help to see the person’s body, although sometimes this may not be possible. A funeral director can arrange this with the family’s permission. Many people find it helpful to have this opportunity.