Complicated Grief and PTSD After a Suicide



The grief associated with the suicide of a loved one can be prolonged and extremely intense for some. Continuing your life after losing a loved one to suicide is difficult for all.  Some people have an extended response and often struggle to find themselves after the loss of their loved one.  Complicated grief is a situation where the survivor needs to seek professional help to help them move on in their lives after the suicide.  

Complicated Grief and PTSD

  • How to Recognize Complicated Grief 
    • Resource: Website
    • Resource: Video
    • Summary: Complicated grief often disrupts relationships with friends and family and makes the bereaved person feel cut off and alone. Complicated grief can make it difficult to function effectively or even to care about functioning. Maybe you know someone who has lost a child, a spouse, a partner, a parent, or a close friend - and you are wondering if they are suffering from complicated grief.
  • The Center for Complicated Grief
    • Resource: Treatment Program
    • Summary: This is a world renowned treatment program at Columbia University in Manhattan  led by award winning physician Dr. Katherine  Shear.  This program focuses on the novel treatment methods to help those struggling with Complicated Grief. 
  • NY Times Article on Complicated Grief 
    • Resource: Article
    • Summary: Each of the 2.5 million annual deaths in the United States directly affects four other people, on average. For most of these people, the suffering is finite — painful and lasting, of course, but not so disabling that 2 or 20 years later the person can barely get out of bed in the morning. For some people, however — an estimated 15 percent of the bereaved population, or more than a million people a year — grieving becomes what Dr. M. Katherine Shear, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia, calls “a loop of suffering.” And these people, Dr. Shear added, can barely function. “It takes a person away from humanity,” she said of their suffering, “and has no redemptive value.”
  • Suicide bereavement and complicated grief
    • Resource: 10 Page PDF
    • Summary: Losing a loved to suicide is one is one of life’s most painful experiences. The feelings of loss, sadness, and loneliness experienced after any death of a loved one are often magnified in suicide survivors by feelings of guilt, confusion, rejection, shame, anger, and the effects of stigma and trauma. Furthermore, survivors of suicide loss are at higher risk of developing major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and suicidal behaviors, as well as a prolonged form of grief called complicated grief. Added to the burden is the substantial stigma, which can keep survivors away from much needed support and healing resources. Thus, survivors may require unique supportive measures and targeted treatment to cope with their loss. After a brief description of the epidemiology and circumstances of suicide, we review the current state of research on suicide bereavement, complicated grief in suicide survivors, and grief treatment for survivors of suicide. 
  • Experiencing Trauma
    • Resource: Webpage
    • Summary: Grief is not the only experience that people bereaved by suicide face. Many people also suffer the impact of trauma. Some people will have found the person who died and will usually be affected by trauma. But those who have not found the person may also be traumatised by the impact of the death.
  • Coping with a Traumatic Event
    • Resource: 2 page PDF
    • Summary: Brochure from the CDC.  Most everyone has been through a stressful event in his or her life. When the event, or series of events, causes a lot of stress, it is called a traumatic event. Traumatic events are marked by a sense of horror, helplessness, serious injury, or the threat of serious injury or death. Traumatic events affect survivors, rescue workers, and the friends and relatives of victims who have been involved
  • Survivor Experience: The Features of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
    • Resource: Webpage
    • Summary: People who have lost a loved one to suicide are also vulnerable to PTSD, especially if they witnessed the suicide or its aftermath or if the death was described to them in graphic detail by an eyewitness or in a police or coroner's report. People who already struggle with mental health issues are especially vulnerable to PTSD.
  • Navigating PTSD After a Suicide
    • Resource: Blog Post
    • Summary: What do you think about when you hear the term “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?” The first thing I think about is the military. We so often hear about our veterans returning home from war with symptoms of PTSD. We are also all aware that this untreated PTSD often leads to suicide. But, what we do not often think about is PTSD experienced by survivors in the aftermath of a suicide. In fact, I believe that PTSD after a suicide is more prevalent than we think.
  • Traumatic Grief and Post Traumatic Stress 
    • Resource: Website
    • Summary: Traumatic losses such as the death of a loved one by suicide are far outside of what we normally expect in life.  The reactions of suicide survivors often include and go beyond normal grief reactions in severity and duration. Many survivors experience symptoms of post traumatic stress. Many counselors would say "these are normal responses to abnormal events."  Recovery from these symptoms is a gradual process. Most survivors find that as time goes on, reactions become fewer and less intense.
  • Common Symptoms In Mourners Needing Professional Help  
    • Resource: Blog Posting
    • Summary: Not every mourner needs grief counseling or grief support groups, but sometimes grief becomes so overwhelming that outside help may be needed.  No one knows your grief or your grief experience like you do.  So sometimes you have to tell yourself, “Hey, I cannot do this grief thing alone. I need help from somewhere and someone!”
  • NAMI  on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
    • Resource: Website
    • Summary: Traumatic events, such as military combat, assault, an accident or a natural disaster, can have long-lasting negative effects. Sometimes our biological responses and instincts, which can be life-saving during a crisis, leave people with ongoing psychological symptoms because they are not integrated into consciousness. 
  • How Do People Respond During Traumatic Exposure? 
    • Resource: 10 page pdf
    • Summary: The following emotional, cognitive, behavioral, physiological and spiritual reactions are often experienced by people during a traumatic event. It is important to recognize that these reactions do not necessarily represent an unhealthy or maladaptive response. Rather, they may be viewed as normal responses to an abnormal event. When these reactions are experienced in the future (i.e., weeks, months or even years after the event), are joined by other symptoms (e.g., recurrent distressing dreams, “flashbacks,” avoidance behaviors, etc.), and interfere with social, occupational or other important areas of functioning, a psychiatric disorder may be in evidence. These individuals should pursue help with a mental health professional.
  • MyPTSD
    • Resource: Website and Chat Forum
    • Summary: PTSD Forum launched on the 06th Sep, 2005, with one simple aim, to provide quality PTSD information and support to all concerned