My Grief Care

Grieving A Suicide

6 Episodes

Episode 4 : The Abandonment of Suicide


Episode Notes

A Sense of Abandonment from Suicide

Survivors of suicide can be confronted with a deep sense of abandonment. They may feel hurt, anger, shock, anguish, and bewilderment in response to being left behind. Survivors often don’t get a rational explanation for their loved one’s decision. Having no closure on the why of suicide can be terribly dissatisfying and unsettling.

How about you? Do you feel wounded because your loved one “chose” to leave you?

If so, you are not alone. Your experience can be impacted by what your relationship was with the deceased. For example:

Spouses left behind by their partners must contend with legal, financial, parental, and sometimes occupational problems. Knowing that your spouse made this choice, you may be thinking:

“And he chose to leave me to pick up the pieces? How could he do that to me?”

Children of someone who ends their own life also struggle with those “left behind” feelings and commonly internalize that they were not important enough to stick around for – and the person who left them was the one who was supposed to provide for them, protect them and guide them.

“I guess mom didn’t love me that much after all.”

Parents who lose a child to suicide often carry tremendous guilt. The sense of responsibility for the suicide may be especially felt if the victim is an adolescent or young adult who recently left the nest.

“I must have been a terrible parent if she was so intent on leaving me.”


“How could he throw his life away, knowing he would also ruin my life?”

Do any of those scenarios sound similar to your experience?

Of course, you will ponder, question, and examine the relationship you thought that you had. You might question whether or not you meant anything to your loved one. Your loved one isn’t here to answer such questions. If they left a note apologizing for their decision, that might help a bit. But, the truth is: their ultimate decision probably had less to do with your relationship than you think.

What do I mean by that? A person who has reached the point of actually killing themself is most likely not thinking logically. Their psychological pain, fear, and sense of hopelessness are clouding their judgment.

At that point, they probably aren’t thinking clearly about the people who love them. Instead, they are thinking something like: “I cannot live like this anymore,” and “I have to escape my fear and pain.” They may also be thinking, “No one is going to miss me anyway.”

Of course, such thoughts are not true – but negative thoughts and painful emotions hamper their frontal cortex. They have truly lost the ability to reason. They are out of the context of their normal reality. Usually, survivors don’t get a rational explanation for their loved one’s decision.

A recent client of mine, who had lost her husband to suicide the year before, told me that she searched and searched for a goodbye note. What she ended up finding were some scribbled notes wadded up in a trash can in their rented storage space. The garbled message she found seemed to reflect a person’s mind confused, in pain, and desperate. The words didn’t make sense. She described it as a melancholy word salad. Apparently, he had given up trying to make sense of his tangled thoughts and feelings.

She was left to wonder what was going on in his mind.  And for many survivors, that is the most that they will get. Some get no explanation at all. Their thought process may never be known in this life. And having no closure on the ‘why’ of suicide is terribly dissatisfying and unsettling.

You may feel hurt, anger, shock, anguish, and bewilderment in response to being left behind. These strong and sometimes contrasting emotions are real and appropriate under the circumstances. Do your best just to experience and acknowledge these difficult emotions. Don’t try to bury them or avoid them.

I’m not trying to say not to take their decision personally, as what could be more personal than losing a close loved one to suicide? But while their actions don’t seem to align with the loving relationship you remember, it doesn’t mean that you weren’t important to your loved one.

The decision to end their life also doesn’t mean your loved one wished to get away from you or didn’t care how much you would hurt you. No, I believe that, in their desperation, they chose to end their pain rather than continue living in it.


  • A person on the verge of suicide is not thinking clearly or rationally.
  • Their decision to take their life is primarily influenced by a desperate need to end their pain – and not a reflection of how they felt about you.
  • Your bewilderment, shock, pain, and anger are natural and normal responses to the death of a loved one by suicide.
  • Living without your loved one is hard. Living without answers to our questions makes it even harder.


  • Write your loved one a note in a paragraph or two, telling them how their decision has hurt you and left you feeling abandoned. Share what unanswered questions you have been wrestling with and how it feels to know you won’t get answers. 
  • Read it aloud to yourself or a safe friend.


Some of my most important questions will never be answered. Experiencing peace when there are no answers, I sense, is the secret place I must find. Acceptance, I’m told, is my path to serenity. Only there will I find joy in the “unknowns” of my life.