Learning About a Death by Suicide

Learning that someone you know has died by suicide can cause all kinds of reactions and raise many questions. You may also be overwhelmed by the things that need to be done, such as breaking the news to loved ones, making funeral arrangements, settling the estate, and more.

Having guidance in these difficult times can help you cope.

If you’ve just lost someone to suicide, 24/7 support from a trained counsellor is available by calling 1-866-277-3553 or contacting suicide.ca via online chat or text messaging service.

How you may react

Learning that a person has taken their own life can cause a wide variety of reactions. Each person handles the news differently, and there’s no right or wrong way to respond.

All of the following behaviours are normal, and some may occur at the same time:

  • Having difficulty believing what has happened
  • Feeling sad, angry, or guilty
  • Feeling calm or relieved
  • Wanting to take your mind off what happened
  • Not experiencing any particular reaction at the time
  • Trying to understand why the person took their own life

How to tell people about a death by suicide

There is no ideal way to tell people about a death by suicide. Here’s some advice:

Announce it in person

Ideally, the deceased’s loved ones should be informed in person.

Ask a counsellor for advice

If you feel uncomfortable making the announcement, you can contact a counsellor at a suicide prevention centre or call Info-Social 811 for advice.

Ask people if they want to know the details of the suicide

Not everyone will want to know how the person took their own life. It may be useful to ask people whether they want to know.

Share or delegate the task

Being responsible for announcing that a person has committed suicide can be a heavy burden. If you feel unable or unwilling to take on this responsibility, delegate it or share it with people you trust and who feel up to the task.

What do you need to do after a death by suicide?

Given the shock and emotions you could be feeling, you may have difficulty dealing with the things that need to be done, including making funeral arrangements, obtaining important documents, dealing with the coroner’s office, and more. Fortunately, resources and information are available to help you with these tasks.