If your best friend recently committed suicide, it’s normal to feel a tremendous sense of loss, grief, and distress. You may feel, right now, as if you’re in a black hole and that nothing will ever make it better. There’s so much pain you wonder whether your life will ever be the same again.
You feel like everything is falling apart.
We want to tell you that we’re here with you in your pain. First, we are deeply sorry for your personal loss.
And we’re here to say that all your emotions are valid. Your pain, your suffering, the intense sadness, the anger – everything.
Yes, all of it.
We’d also like to share a few important messages that we think might be important.
Four Things You Need to Hear
1. It’s not your fault.
In addition to a huge amount of pain, many teens feel an indescribable amount of guilt and shame over a friend’s suicide. They think “Perhaps if I called them more…been there more for him…hung out with her more…then it wouldn’t have happened.” We’re here to tell you that suicide is often the result of a debilitating mental health disorder. Teens who end their lives by suicide often struggle with severe depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), emotional issues, eating disorders, borderline personality disorder, or other mental health issues. These develop as a result of many interacting biopsychosocial factors – not because of you. In other words, you are not responsible for your friend’s death.
2. Talk to people.
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Talk about the tragedy with your parents, your friend’s family, or your friends. In many cases, people may not realize you need comfort, too. When it comes to loss, people are often quick to turn to the parents and siblings of a teen who committed suicide. Friends – even best friends – may come only as a second thought. If this happens, be proactive in seeking out comfort for yourself. Reach out to mutual friends and talk about what happened. Cry together. You might even want to make a memory book with photos and memories of your friend. Keep it for yourself, give to your friend’s family, or both. You may also find that sometimes, after the immediate impact of a tragedy passes, people don’t want to bring it up again to you for fear of bringing up sad memories. But if it helps for you to talk about it, then talk about it. And let your friends and family know that you’d actually prefer discussing it than pretending it never happened.
3. See a mental health professional.
Yes, your school or parents may have already brought in a mental health professional to speak to you about the situation. But that shouldn’t be the only time you bring up this topic. Many teens find that a few sessions of outpatient therapy are truly helpful in processing the grief associated with a friend’s suicide. Even if you don’t think you need it, you may find that simply talking to a trained, licensed therapist helps you work through unresolved feelings you have about the tragedy. Seeking help from a mental health professional is imperative if you have persistent feelings of distress, which could be symptoms of trauma or PTSD. Aches, pains, trembling, feeling spaced-out or in denial, feeling unable to cry, feeling anxious, exhausted, and/or lethargic are just a few symptoms of mental health conditions typically associated with grief and loss.
4. Take Action.
If you feel depressed, suicidal, or have thoughts of self-harm, contact the Crisis Text Line or Suicide Prevention Hotline immediately – see below. Exposure to suicide may spur some teens to consider thoughts of suicide, too. This is known as the contagion effect. It’s not uncommon among adolescents. If a friend’s suicide causes you to consider suicide or self-harm, please get help right away.
How to Get Help
We can’t stress this enough: if you feel suicidal or have thoughts of harming yourself in any way, call 911 immediately. You can also reach out to the following resources:
- The Suicide Prevention Hotline number: 1-800-273-TALK (800-273-8255).
- The Crisis Text Line at 741741. Text “HOME” to this number and a trained crisis support counselor will give you free assistance 24/7.
Also, if you have frequent thoughts of suicide or self-injury, you may need professional help. If you do not call 911 or one of the resources above, your next best course of action is to contact a mental health professional for a full assessment and evaluation. You may need treatment at a 24/7 residential treatment center (RTC), a partial hospitalization program (PHP), or intensive outpatient center (IOP) that specializes in adolescent mental health or dual diagnosis issues.
If you or someone you love feels suicidal,
contact the National Suicide Prevention Line