Archives > September 2016

The Relationship Between Unresolved Grief and Suicide


In support of National Suicide Prevention Week, we decided to write a blog about the relationship between unresolved grief and suicide. Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation and negative stigma around the topic of suicide, especially in regards to how one’s suicide is perceived. A common attitude that creates a lot of pain and confusion for many people is the belief that suicide is a “selfish act”.

Suicidal thoughts can be triggered following varying life experiences, including loss of any kind or a series of loss events.  Very sadly and tragically, the individual reaches a point of such profound pain and hopelessness, that they just want it to end.  It is not about hurting their loved ones, engaging in a selfish act, or even about death. It is about ending the pain.  Many individuals who reach this point truly believe that their loved ones would be “better off” without them.

There are over 40 forms of loss that can cause us to feel pain and despair. Suicide can be triggered by many losses that happen throughout our lives including,

  • Death
  • Divorce or break-up
  • Pet loss
  • Job loss
  • Economic changes
  • Loss of trust
  • Bullying
  • Retirement
  • Legal problems
  • Addictions
  • Illness or loss of health
  • Incarceration
  • Loss of fertility or miscarriage

Because we have been taught that it is not okay to share our sad, painful, or conflicting feelings, we often don’t feel the safety to share openly with others.  The habit we create and become familiar with, grieving alone, has negative implications for our lives.  It begins to limit and restrict our happiness and emotional freedom and can lead us down a path of loneliness and self-destruction. Sometimes we become so familiar with our pain, that we lose hope that things can be better or different for our future.

Although the warning signs of suicide can be subtle, some common behaviors include, drug and alcohol abuse, sleeping difficulties, and acts of self-harm. You may notice altering of life choices and the individual partaking in risky behaviors.  Additionally, personality change and attitude change can be an indication of suicidal ideation. We may also start to see the individual withdraw and isolate from relationships and social situations, and they may even begin to lose interest in activities that they used to enjoy.

A life of unresolved grief can trigger hopelessness and thoughts of suicide if the pain becomes too unbearable and unmanageable.  Unresolved grief is cumulative and cumulatively negative. Sadly, it restricts us emotionally in our relationships and in our lives.  As noted earlier, we often hold back from sharing our feelings with others, as we may not feel as though we have that safe haven to be vulnerable and express ourselves honestly.

It is important that people who are struggling with thoughts of suicide or previous attempts have an outlet for communicating their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. They often just want and need to be heard by someone they trust. We need to be willing to listen without judgment, criticism, or analysis. Being a “heart with ears” may be enough to stop an individual from ending their life.

There are several resources available in our city for those who are struggling, including the incredible work we do at The Grief & Trauma Healing Center. Our Edmonton Psychologists offer an environment that fosters courage, strength, resilience, and hope to those who are struggling to find a purpose or will to live.  We offer a safe and confidential space to share openly and honestly. Our expertise in grief and trauma equips us with the tools to support individuals through whatever circumstances they are having a difficult time moving forward from.

If you are currently struggling with thoughts of suicide or unresolved grief and are seeking support, we are here to help.

This article was written by Ashley Mielke, Owner & Director, and Gina Baretta, Certified Grief Recovery Specialist®, of The Grief & Trauma Healing Centre. Visit for information about our grief counselling services and Grief Recovery Method® Programs. 

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