Overcoming Guilt and Shame in the Wake of Suicide

BY: Dr. Sagnik Mukherjee (MBBS; MD; MIPS; MIAPP)


The aftermath of a loved one’s death by suicide is an emotional maelstrom of sorrow, disbelief, and often, feelings of guilt and shame. Friends and family members might be plagued by thoughts of what they could have done differently, or why they didn’t see the signs. The stigma associated with suicide can further exacerbate feelings of shame. In some ways, the symptoms are similar to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Here are some steps and perspectives from our best neuropsychiatrist in Kolkata to help individuals navigate and heal from this profound grief.

1. Understand Grief’s Complexity

Grieving a loved one’s suicide isn’t a linear process. The feelings are complex, sometimes contradictory, and can fluctuate daily or even hourly. Recognizing the multi-layered nature of this grief can be a crucial first step in healing.

2. Know That Suicide Is Multifaceted

Blaming oneself is a natural, albeit painful, response. But it’s vital to remember that a suicide death usually arises from a tangled web of factors — psychological, biological, environmental — many of which are hidden or poorly understood even by those closest to the individual.

3. Share Your Feelings

Keeping your emotions bottled up can be detrimental. Reach out to friends, family, or support groups who can offer a listening ear. Sharing can provide a release and often brings to light that others feel the same way, reducing feelings of isolation.

4. Give Yourself Time

The healing process doesn’t have a time frame. Some days will be better than others. Allow yourself the grace to grieve at your own pace and in your way.

5. Challenge Stigmatizing Thoughts

Stigmatizing thoughts can magnify your sense of shame. Challenge them by educating yourself about mental health and suicide. Remember that mental illness is just that – an illness, and like any other disease, it can be fatal despite everyone’s best efforts.

6. Create a Memory

Honoring the memory of the loved one can be a healing act. This could be through creating art, holding memorial services, planting a tree, or establishing scholarships or foundations in their name. Celebrating their life, rather than focusing solely on their death, can be therapeutic.

7. Take Care of Yourself

Grief after suicide can be physically draining. Engage in self-care: eat balanced meals, get enough sleep, exercise, and engage in activities that bring comfort or joy.

8. Avoid “What-Ifs”

The game of “what-if” is endless and excruciating. While it’s natural to ponder on what could have been done differently to avoid the suicide death, it’s essential to recognize that this spiral of thoughts is neither productive nor reflective of reality.

9. Join a Support Group

Groups such as Survivors of Suicide Loss (SOSL) or other community support groups can be invaluable. Connecting with others who have experienced a similar loss can provide understanding and comfort.

10. Seek Professional Help

Therapists or counselors, especially those specializing in grief or trauma, can provide coping strategies and a safe space to express feelings. They can guide individuals through the labyrinth of emotions and help them find a path to healing.

The aftermath of a death by suicide is an intricate tapestry of sorrow, guilt, and shame. Yet, with support, understanding, and time, individuals can find a way to navigate this challenging terrain, honoring their loved one’s memory while forging a path to healing and acceptance. If you or someone you know is struggling with such grief, remember to reach out. Help, understanding, and healing are available.

Call +91 98313 13020 or emailmhrckol@gmail.com.To schedule an appointment, please visit our best neuropsychiatric clinic in Kolkata  if you need help dealing with a loved one’s suicide or are having suicidal thoughts of your own. Embrace the opportunity for a better, healthier future.

Dr. Sagnik Mukherjee, a distinguished Consultant Neuro-Psychiatrist, brings a wealth of experience and expertise to the field of mental health. With an academic background that includes an MBBS from Calcutta National Medical College, Kolkata, and an MD from SVS Medical College, Hyderabad, he has garnered recognition as one of Kolkata’s leading mental health professionals. Dr. Mukherjee’s illustrious career has seen him contribute his skills and knowledge to esteemed institutions such as Chittaranjan Hospital, SVS Medical College & Hospital Hyderabad, KPC Medical College, and Iris Hospital. Currently, he serves as a consultant at the Mental Health Research Centre in Kolkata, located within the Marwari Relief Society Hospital, Bara Bazar. His areas of specialization encompass Child and adolescent psychiatry, de-addiction, schizophrenia, depression, and various types of anxiety disorders. Dr. Sagnik Mukherjee’s commitment to the field is underscored by his active participation in numerous international and national seminars on Psychiatry and mental health. His dedication and expertise make him a highly respected figure in the realm of mental health care in Kolkata.