Facing the Loss Of A Loved One To Suicide

[Editor’s Note: November 19 is International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day. On this day survivors of suicide loss gather at hundreds of simultaneous healing conferences around the world every year to connect with others who have survived the tragedy of suicide loss and express and start to understand the powerful emotions we experience. For more information about a conference near you,  visit the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention.]

Facing the Loss of a Loved One to Suicide -postpartumprogress.com

My story of suicide loss begins more than 35 years ago. My cousin’s mom died by suicide when he was just a baby. All these years it never occurred to me that she was probably suffering from postpartum depression—or perhaps even postpartum psychosis—at the time of her death.

It’s not something my family openly discussed, but my perception had mistakenly always been “Oh, she must not have wanted to be a mom.” How very naive of me.

After years of experience with my own depression and mental health issues postpartum, it’s become clear to me that she was suffering like so many women from a postpartum illness like postpartum depression. She needed treatment that apparently she never got, in a time when such topics were even more taboo than they are today.

Last year, my life-long friend Dina died by suicide at Christmas. She wasn’t in the postpartum period at the time. (Her son was 15.) But many years ago when he was just over two, she came to me with suicidal thoughts. We were in our early 20s and I had yet to experience mental illness.

She and her husband were splitting up, and Dina believed her son would be better off not knowing or remembering her. I knew without a doubt that wasn’t true and found the courage to tell her parents and then husband what she told me.

It turns out that wasn’t her first suicidal ideation. In fact, she was probably predisposed to mental illness. And during that prime postpartum period with the stress of being a young mother and impending divorce, I wouldn’t be surprised if she had also been suffering from postpartum depression never properly treated. And I’ve come to learn that untreated postpartum illness often leads to ongoing chronic mental illness.

I’ve had other friends attempt and complete suicide, too many times in fact. I’ve also experienced my own times of suicidal thoughts. I write this not for shock value but because this is a topic that is so important to me to keep talking about. To advocate for mental health awareness. To help others feel not so alone in their struggles.

Today, most importantly I want to honor those of us who are surviving the loss of a loved one to suicide. The grief, the guilt, the intense sadness never fully goes away.

Suicide is a permanent answer to a temporary or often treatable problem. And it’s estimated that 90% of suicides are by people with mental illness that has most likely gone untreated, such as postpartum depression or psychosis.

The family and loved ones who are left behind suffer the consequences, the questions, the stigma. My cousin, my friend’s parents and son, me and other loved ones. For every death by suicide, there are tens or even hundreds more who are living with it every day, those who often times blame themselves for an act that, in all honesty, was out of their control. An act done out of intense pain and true illness.

The grief of suicide is not a competition. One person does not “grieve more” or have a right to grieve more than any other. I have the right to grieve Dina in my own way, just as each of her loved ones do. I say “in my own way,” because I’ve also learned that each of us lives with suicide loss in very different ways. And that’s okay.

If the grief and pain of loss begins to overtake you, it’s unbelievably important to seek the help and support you need to heal through the loss. To find others who understand. To share your story of love and loss with those who need to hear it. I promise it will help you too.

Today I’m here to say that I am the face of suicide loss. And I’m here if you need  me.

What beautiful person have you lost to suicide? How are you doing surviving his or her loss?  Share your story and break the stigma.


If you’re facing suicidal thoughts, reach out for help. Call 1-800-273-8255 to speak to someone at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

About Cristi Comes

Cristi is a warrior mom, wife and writer at http://www.motherhoodunadorned.com. She blogs about mental health, suicide prevention, self care and style. She's a survivor of postpartum depression and anxiety, and fighter of mental illness.

Tell Us What You Think


  1. It really is an intense grief. And though I'm only just over a year as a survivor, I already know that the sadness will never quite leave, that my life will never quite be the same.

  2. Robin | Farewell, St says:

    Bravo, Cristi. It's such an important topic to be able to talk about. My cousin died by suicide just over 3 years ago and, while we weren't close, her family was devastated and she left two little kids behind. So very sad.

    A good friend lost a brother to suicide several years ago and neither she nor her mom has been the same since.

    I didn't really understand this issue at the time of either, but know that I know more I wish I could go back in time and try to help. But don't we all?

  3. Elisabeth K says:

    Thanks for posting this one. I've been thinking a lot about PPD and suicide lately, not because I feel suicidal but because my father committed suicide 20 years ago, and I have days when I understand exactly why he did it. It was an escape. He must have needed to be free of his pain more than he needed to be with us. It stuns me to think that there are women who are suffering so terribly that they'd leave their kids for ever. And yet I too am a child who was left behind. And yet I have compassion for my dad's suffering and the ugly legacy he left us. The thoughts go in circles like that relentlessly.

  4. Pixcel Smith says:

    Thank-you for posting this. I wanted very much to commit suicide with my PPD and there are still days when it seems like a quick, easy out. Realizing you aren't the only one and getting help is only as far as the doctor's office but I couldn't do it. My hubby dragged me in and told my story for me. Just talking about my experience to other new moms I know has helped a few that otherwise would not have gone for help. It's the scariest feeling in the world when you choose death over life and are convinced it's the right thing to do despite knowing that you will leave a big hole in people's lives. All I can say is "it's okay to ask for help".

  5. Thank you for sharing these stories, and for pointing how just how unique and wholly personal the grieving process is for each person. Even for each person I've lost to suicide, I've grieved in a different way–my own way, just as their other loved ones have grieved in their own ways.

    Suicide has been one of those "core stories" in my life ever since I was a young girl. I'm sure some of the ones I've lost have suffered from mental illness, and possibly postpartum depression or psychosis on a few cases. And in ways that I will reveal after my baby is born in January, I'm naming my child in a way that honors those losses and that acknowledges the ways in which their stories have shaped me into the person I am today. Part of what I hope to be is someone who knows how and when to reach out before another life is lost.

  6. Wonderful post. I grieve for a long-time close friend who ended is life March 2010, and the loss is profound to me. I nearly lost my son to suicide six years ago when he thought it was the only way to rid his mind of the psychosis of schizophrenia, and I truly feel that our sharing of our feelings and stories is what helps save another life.

  7. My father-in-law committed suicide several years ago – long before I met my husband. For the first time since the funeral, my husband went to the cemetery in September with me and our daughter. I was strong for him but breaking inside. I ache for his loss and the loss for my daughter – missing out on a special person in her life. It's moments like that that make me more committed to beating this PPD. I refuse to put my own child through the mess that my father-in-law created for my husband.

  8. sherri in tn says:

    I just read this sad blog. For someone that has a family member or a dear friend to kill themself. We are looking for what we did to make them unhappy. I am glad now that I understand that no matter what i did it would have been the same. I loved you my uncle and miss you everyday.

  9. Anyone who has lost a loved one to suicide can get free information about coping with their grief at http://www.save.org/coping. People may also contact me at fcook@save.org, and I will be helpful if I can be. Franklin Cook, Director of Survivor and Bereavement Programs, Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE)


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