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How Support Groups Can Help With Suicide Loss

Losing someone close to you is always hard. When it happens because of suicide, the pain and grief can be incredibly tough to understand.

It’s not just about the usual feelings of loss and sadness. Suicide can leave survivors questioning the “why” and grappling with a sense of responsibility. Survivors are also at higher risk of developing major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and a long-lasting form of grief called complicated grief. 

“Complicated grief is a more intense form of mourning,” said Jerimya Fox, a licensed professional counselor and a doctor of behavioral health with Banner Health. “Unlike normal grief, it doesn’t tend to get better with time and can make it difficult to get back to your daily life.”

One way to find comfort and relief from grief is through a support group. Support groups provide a safe space to talk to people who get what you’re going through. 

If you have recently lost someone close to you to suicide, read on to understand the grieving process after a sudden death such as suicide and how a support group may help in your healing journey.

The effects of suicide on loved ones

When someone you care about takes their own life, it’s tough to wrap your head around it. 

People respond to this type of loss in many ways, and there’s no right or wrong way to go through it. However, some common emotions and reactions may include:

  • Shock and disbelief: Your first response may be a mix of shock and disbelief. The initial shock may give way to uncertainty about why it happened.
  • Stigma and isolation: Dealing with the stigma surrounding suicide may lead to feelings of embarrassment and isolation or withdrawal from others. 
  • Guilt: You may blame yourself for your loved one’s death or question if you could have done something differently.
  • Anger: The pain may turn into anger directed at the situation or even the person who passed away.
  • Physical symptoms: The emotional toll may take a physical toll, leading to changes in sleep and appetite, headaches, and overall well-being. 

[To learn more, read ”Navigating Grief After a Sudden Death”].

The power of support groups 

When you’ve lost someone to suicide, it’s not unusual to withdraw from others. However, leaning on others for support can help ease the burden of grief. 

Bereavement support groups – ideally a group focused on suicide loss – can be very helpful. One of the most important benefits is empathetic emotional support from those who have experienced similar loss.

“Suicide loss support groups are safe spaces where you can be free to open up about your thoughts, feelings and experiences without fear of being judged,” Dr. Fox said. “Even if you’d rather listen, hearing from others in a similar situation can provide hope and help you feel less alone in your grief.”

Support groups provide a space to share coping strategies that can help others on their journey. Learning from other survivors can give you the tools to manage the emotional rollercoaster that grief often brings.

Building connections within a support group can also provide a sense of community beyond meetings. Having a network of people who understand your experience can provide ongoing support and strength as you heal.

Tips for choosing a support group

If you are thinking of joining a support group, here are some tips on how to make the most of it.

Do some research 

Ask someone you know who has experience with suicide loss for suggestions. Check with mental health providers, therapists and counselors in your area. Organizations like the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention or local mental health associations may have information about support groups for suicide loss in your area.

Choose one that’s right for you

Do you want to meet face-to-face or do you prefer online support groups where you can be anonymous? Support groups may also be offered by religious organizations, nonprofit groups, hospitals or clinics.

Support groups are often run by volunteers or people with lived experience. They may not be health care providers or trained counselors. Decide if you could benefit from understanding and support, professional help or both.

“A support group is more centered around coping strategies and finding comfort through shared experiences,” said Dr. Fox said. “Whereas group therapy often focuses on bringing about change and personal growth through structured guidance and is led by a certified mental health provider.”

Support groups are not a substitute for medical care from your provider. Talk to your provider before taking advice about medical care or treatments from a support group.

See if it is a good fit

Try the support group for a few weeks. If it doesn’t feel like a good fit, consider a different group or format. Remember that even a support group you like can change over time as participants come and go.

Trust your instincts

Watch out for support groups that promise a cure for a disease or condition, charge high fees to attend the group or pressure you to buy products or services. 

Other ways to find support

While support groups can be helpful when processing grief, there are other ways to seek comfort:


Coping with the loss of a loved one to suicide is a challenging journey, but you don’t have to face it alone. Suicide support groups offer a unique and understanding community that can help you navigate your grief. Seeking support is a sign of strength, and there are many ways to help you on your path to healing. 

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