Thoughts of Suicide During Grief: The Natural Desire for Reunion


Contemplating suicide? Click here now.

Support for suicide survivors

The difference between grief and depression 

The problem with death is absence. Roger Rosenblatt

A woman I will call Anne wrote me because her life partner had died suddenly just ten days earlier. She yearned for a reunion with her loved one and expressed thoughts of suicide. She added that the only thing preventing her from killing herself was her religious beliefs.

I forwarded this painful letter to
Marty Tousley. Once again, my grief counselor friend answered an anguished cry for help with a tender and thoughtful response. May it comfort you, too, in the long dark journey of grief.

Dear Anne,

Please accept my deepest sympathy for this tragic loss of your life partner. When death comes suddenly and unexpectedly like this, the shock of it is beyond all understanding, and I can only imagine how your world has been turned upside down. I am so very sorry.

You say that you have thoughts of wanting to die so you can be with him. Keep in mind that feelings in grief are neither right or wrong, good or bad, and they’re not always rational – feelings just are, and for your own mental health it’s important to acknowledge them and express them.

So I want to commend you for acknowledging and expressing your thoughts of suicide. Most grieving people have those very same thoughts, but they are terribly afraid to share them for fear of being regarded as over-reacting or crazy, or for fear of scaring other people.

I want you to know that thoughts of suicide are not at all unusual when you are grieving. Right now you may have the pessimistic belief that things will never get any better, as if life and living are useless and pointless. It is difficult to imagine life without your loved one, and you're feeling a compelling need to join or be with him is understandable.

Keep in mind, however, that there is a vast difference between thinking about suicide and actually acting upon such thoughts. In grief, thoughts of suicide are usually fleeting and reflect how desperately you want the pain of loss to end. You say that because you are religious you know that suicide is not an option, and I want to suggest to you if that alone is your reason for hanging on right now, then accept it and let it be enough.

You ask how you go on from here, and trite as it may seem, the answer is that you do it one day at a time, and if that is too much, you do it one hour and even one minute at a time. If you learn anything at all by reading the accounts of all the other mourners who are posting in these forums, I hope you’ll learn that there is no right or wrong way to do this thing called grief. There is only your way, and you must discover that way for yourself.

We can share with you all the things we’ve learned and done and tried to help ourselves along the way, but it is up to you to pick and choose what works for you and discard what does not. Just know that to do nothing, to simply let time pass as if “time heals all wounds,” is only to delay the work that needs to be done.

The passage of time does nothing to heal grief – it is what we do with the time that matters. So when you are ready to do so, I encourage you to read all you can find about grief in general and loss of a life partner in particular, so you will know what is normal and to be expected on this grief journey of yours, you’ll be better prepared for what lies ahead, and you’ll know what you can do to manage your own reactions.

Go to the Grief Healing web site and click the
Death of a Spouse / Life Partner category. Follow some of the links listed there and learn what is unique about this special kind of loss. Please feel free to join the discussion group at any time.

I wish you peace and healing,
Marty T

Marty’s letter addressed the natural desire for reunion with a loved one.


If you are contemplating suicide, please click on the link below and read it now:


OR CALL TOLL-FREE: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a 24-hour suicide prevention service available to anyone in suicidal crisis. You will be routed to the closest crisis center in your area. The Lifeline mission is to provide immediate assistance to anyone seeking mental health services. Call for yourself, or someone you care about. Your call is free and confidential.

On a related yet different topic, what do you do with the complex emotions of grief after someone you love has taken his or her own life?

Click on Suicide Survivor Grief Support for hope and support after this devastating loss. 

Below is a brief summary of guidelines for helping survivors of suicide:  

By Steven W. Jewell, MD

Medical Director

Child Guidance and Family Solutions

Appearing in NAMI Ohio News Briefs 

Fall 2009


Suicide survivors suffer in a variety of ways: 1) because they need to mourn the loss of someone who has died; 2) because they have experienced a sudden, typically unexpected traumatic death; and 3) because of the social stigma surrounding suicide they are often shunned by society.


Here are some ideas how a caring friend or family member can help.


1. Accept the intensity of the grief. Don’t be surprised by the intensity or wide range of feelings associated with suicide grief.


2. Listen with your heart: Don’t worry about what you will say. Simply listen and understand.


3. Avoid simplistic explanations and clichés: Be certain to avoid passing judgment or providing simplistic explanations of the suicide.


4. Be compassionate: Give permission to express feelings without fear of criticism.


5. Respect the need to grieve: As a caring person, you may be the only one willing to be with the survivors during this difficult time.


6. Understand the uniqueness of grief: Keep in mind that the grief of suicide survivors is unique; and because of that, be patient. Every one grieves differently.


7. Be aware of holidays and anniversaries: Like all grievers, survivors of suicide may have a difficult time during holidays and on the anniversary date of the death.


8. Be aware of support groups: Support groups are one of the best ways to help survivors of suicide. You may be able to help survivors locate such a group.


9. Respect faith and spirituality: If faith is part of their lives, allow for its full expression. If they are angry with God, encourage them to talk about their anger without fear of rejection from you.

Go to next page: How can I help him?

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How complicated and individual mending is,
the time required for healing
cannot be measured against any fixed calendar
Mary Jane Moffat
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