Every loss of life is a tragedy and undoubtedly takes a significant amount of time to process. However, while each emotional pathway through bereavement is entirely unique, the cause of death can signify a few patterns of behaviour we can expect to encounter as a response.


If someone you love has battled with a terminal illness, then part of the grieving process often begins with the illness itself. While we witness the painstaking deterioration of life, the gradual nature of an illness psychologically prepares us for the imminent loss of life.

The only saving grace in this agonising experience is that there is a chance to make vital preparations for both yourself and your loved one.

There is a chance to insure that their final wishes will be observed, as well as the chance for you to say the things that need to be expressed and to do anything necessary that helps you adjust to this reality. Equally important is the chance to resolve any differences and to make right what you might feel in your heart has long been wrong.


If someone you love dies in an accident or any form of sudden death, it can leave you in shock for months to come. Unlike a terminal illness, there is no preparation, no final words, no opportunity to correct anything that may feel is wrong.

In an instant, the foreseeable future vanishes into thin air and all you can do now is find a way to reroute yourself.

The helplessness you might feel can haunt you. It might be difficult to trust that life can ever go as planned, as you might have once possibly believed. Whether you can come to terms with this loss or not often depends on a variety of circumstances that precede the death and will take time and patience to work through.


If someone you love was killed, then this too results in an overwhelming shock yet equally as powerful as the shock itself can be the initial anger that follows. There is anger toward the perpetrator, anger at the injustice, anger at your own helplessness, and even anger at a set of circumstances that may have contributed to the killing.

However, anger is energy and with that energy, many channel it into highly effective and healing outlets.

For example, this energy can be used to bring a killer to justice or to campaign for any necessary changes that prevent this from happening to someone else. All the powerful, yet often mixed-up emotions can be targeted into action which sees justice, in the best of instances, prevail. Although initially you may have felt powerless, a sense of purpose can give you your power back.


When someone takes their own life, the victim and the perpetrator form the same individual and so the raw and confusing emotions that require untangling can easily last a life time. The dizzying cycle of unanswered questions find little reprieve during the day to day; questions like: Who do I blame? Am I responsible? Wasn’t I good enough? Didn’t I do enough? How could life be so horrendous?

These are just some of the many questions that can keep anyone bereaved by suicide up late at night. The conversations we play in our mind, have with family and friends, and even in our most personal admissions to a therapist, only reminds us that we will never have all the answers.

We are robbed of a voice. We are robbed of our goodbyes. We are robbed of the chance to correct anything that may feel is still unaddressed. Suicide even robs us of our long held beliefs about what life means and how we value it.

We feel powerless to the brutal force that knocks the wind out of our lungs and then blindfolds us for the months and years to follow.

Following the suicide of a loved one, we often struggle to find a way forward.

How on earth do we overcome a grief like this?

It has been just over two years since my mother died by suicide and I can safely say that I have survived and there is way forward. I still don’t have the answers to so many of my questions and I often feel as though, life as I know it, is still somewhat up-side down. However, I ultimately found a way forward by taking it one day at time. I do not look too far into the future and try my very best not to look too far into the past. By putting one foot in front of the other, I finally found a way to be able to embrace life again.

To find out more information about suicide postvention support visit: www.thoughtclimber.com and please don’t forget to share the love with those who may be in need.

Originally published at medium.com


  • Halani C. Foulsham

    Founder of Thought Climber and creator of the After Journal series for bereavement

    I believe that when storytelling meets strategy, we have the power to transform the world. Therefore, I champion reflective practices at every stage of development to better understand how we can share our stories of learning to improve future strategic decisions. I am also a shameless champion of flowers, huskies, swimming and self-care.