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What suicide survivors have in common with other bereaved and how their loss is different.

The devastation inflicted by a suicide is much more difficult to overcome than that of any other death. Initially you will be in a state of shock and disbelief, as will everyone else who knew and loved the deceased. Yet despite this bolt from the blue, you probably have little choice but to continue as before. And doing this – keeping going without the deceased there to support you, while at the same time struggling to comprehend the loss that you have suffered – is bound to exact a heavy toll. You soon realize that your life will henceforth be divided into a before and after.

What makes suicide doubly difficult to overcome is the necessity of accepting the reality of the death. And suicide is such a brutal reality that it is almost impossible to accept. Those left behind are tormented by all the countless unanswered questions which only the deceased would have been able to answer for them.

The question of blame is also likely to weigh heavily on you, if only because there is no one or nothing else to point a finger at. These feelings of guilt, or at least of shared responsibility, may lead you to doubt the truth of your own view of things and your own experience. You will probably ask yourself: Why didn’t I notice anything? Why couldn’t I help? How can I ever trust my own judgment ever again?

Suicide casts doubt on the life hitherto lived together and this in turn raises the question of how anyone and anything can be trusted ever again. These doubts can provoke a major crisis of meaning.

Another blow is that inflicted on your sense of self-worth, which can no longer be taken for granted. After all, suicide is also about severing ties, be it ties to an individual or to a family or to the wider community. As the one left behind, therefore, you might well conclude: “I was not worth living for.” The decision to commit suicide can never be separated from the deceased’s emotional ties.

Another exacerbating factor is the inkling you now have of just how deep and all-consuming the deceased’s mental anguish must have been. In addition to your own impotence, therefore, you will now feel at least some of that distress.

Being left behind after a suicide is an exceptionally painful form of bereavement; it is actually a major existential crisis in which the old givens and sureties no longer apply. And the only way out of this crisis is to rebuild, both practically and emotionally.


You might at some point feel unable to cope alone. If so, you should seek professional help. The first person to contact might be your family doctor or the local pastor. Talk to them about what happened, about your grief, and about your fears for the future.


Dargebotene Hand

Notruf Kinder und Jugendliche
(hotline for children and young People)

0848 35 45 55    
Elternnotruf (hotline for parents)

061 261 15 15    
Ärztliche Notrufzentrale Notfallpsychiater
(emergency psychiatric Services)

061 325 51 00    
UPK Basel
Notfall für Erwachsene, Jugendliche
und Kinder
(emergency psychiatric services for children and adults)

061 325 81 81     
UPK Basel Akutambulanz
Offene Sprechstunden für Erwachsene  
(walk-in psychiatric clinic for adults)
Mon to Fri 8 a.m.–4 p.m.

061 553 56 56    
Psychiatrie Baselland, Liestal    
Notfall für Erwachsene
(emergency psychiatric services for adults)


061 325 82 00    
Kinder- und Jugendpsychiatrie Basel
(psychiatric clinic for children and young People)


061 553 55 55    
Psychiatrie Baselland, Liestal
Notfall für Kinder und Jugendliche(emergency psychiatric services for children and young People)

061 689 90 90    
Zentrum Selbsthilfe Basel
(centre for self-help Groups)

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