Ongoing reactions after a suicide

We talked about early reactions here, but in the coming weeks, months, and even years, people often find they still experience some strong ongoing reactions.

As the official investigation and coronial processes can take a long time, what happened can continue to be on your mind. There may also be media interest in the person’s death. While there is less stigma surrounding suicide today, members of families and whānau may still feel judged or ashamed. People may judge themselves or experience whakamā. Sometimes people can feel isolated by others. This all makes it harder for a family, whānau, and friends to grieve and move forward.

Everyone is different and will react in their own ways
Sometimes reactions can be intense and challenging to cope with. It can be reassuring to know some of the kinds of ongoing reactions commonly experienced by others bereaved by suicide.

  •     shock, disbelief, numbness
  •     helplessness, powerlessness
  •     anger
  •     guilt and regrets for things said or done, or not said or done
  •     judged, shamed, whakamā
  •     blaming - others, systems, God, self
  •     sadness, grief, yearning for the person
  •     fear, anxiety, panic attacks
  •     on alert for others who may be suicidal
  •     betrayed, rejected
  •     relief, if the person had attempted/threatened many times
  •     alone, isolated
  •     judged by others
  •     despair, depression, suicidal thoughts
  •     hard to take in – might need information repeated
  •     everything’s a blur, time warps
  •     mind racing or thinking very slowly
  •     forgetfulness
  •     difficulty concentrating and completing tasks
  •     difficulty making decisions
  •     unsettling thoughts keep coming
  •     preoccupied, thoughts about the death intruding
  •     nightmares
  •     flashbacks - reliving what happened
  •     heart racing
  •     tight chest, hard to catch a deep breath
  •     nausea, stomach aches
  •     body aches, headaches
  •     shaking
  •     exhaustion and moving slower, or high energy and restless
  •     hard to sleep, or sleeping more
  •     appetite changes
  •     tearful, crying, sobbing
  •     sensitive to noise and light
  •     more accident prone
  •     getting sick more easily, pre-existing health conditions can worsen
  •     keeping close to others, or being alone more
  •     wanting to talk, or not talking
  •     avoiding certain people, places, or situations
  •     irritable, intolerant of others
  •     using drugs or alcohol to cope
  •     loss of interest in things you enjoy
  •     trying to make sense of it
  •     questioning why? what if?
  •     turning towards cultural beliefs and/or faith, or questioning them
  •     unsure of the future
  •     sensing the presence of the person who has died, or of tīpuna (ancestors)

Most people find the intensity of their reactions will gradually lessen but recovering from traumatic grief usually takes longer than most people expect. You may find our Coping with Trauma and When you are Grieving information sheets helpful.

Other useful websites and information


When you are Grieving
Coping with trauma
Dealing with flashbacks
If you discover or witness a suicide death