What it's like for young people dealing with grief & trauma after a suicide
Grief is the normal and expected response to the loss of a family member, friend or someone else close to us. Whilst this is the case, grief relating to suicide can be particularly complex. A young person's reaction to a suicide may be different to an adult's and will be shaped by their developmental stage, their family situation and their relationship with the person who has died. Suicide can have an impact not only on the individual young person, but also on their support network (such as friends and teachers) and community.
Here are some common grief-related responses when someone dies by suicide.
While there is no standard way in which young people will respond to suicide, there are a range of grief-related reactions which they may experience:
- Shock and disbelief that the person has died
- Longing for the person - wishing they were around to touch or be comforted by them
- feelings of anger, resentment or rejection - for being abandoned, for the unfairness of the loss or towards those seen as responsible for the loss
- Feeling sad that the person has gone
-Guilt - That they were unable to help the person or that they were in some way responsible for the death
-Anxiety - about the future and how things will be without that person in their life
- Preoccupation with thoughts of the person who has died
-Changes to sleep patterns and appetite
Most young people will carry on with their lives while moving through the grieving process. However it is important to be aware that complicated grief reactions are higher in suicide bereavement than other forms of death. These include persistent, severe or overwhelming variations on normal grief reactions, such as sleep problems, irritability or anger, persistent low mood, feeling that life is meaningless, not being able to accept the death, avoidance of loss reminders, intense guilt, intrusive thoughts about the death or persistent rumination on explaining or making sense of the death.
Not sure how to help someone you know? Check out this flyer below.
No one should struggle alone.
Getting help and support
You can think about grief as the unpredictable surge of the ocean. If it feels like the waves are constantly crashing down on you, like you’re having trouble coming up for air, or you’re so exhausted you want to give up – it’s time to act. Find a trusted friend, teacher, family member or Elder and let them in on what’s happening for you. If you need more support, there are a number of options that can suit your needs.
Find your nearest headspace centre or for online and phone support visit.