Parents Surviving the Suicide of Their Child

The death of a child is devastating enough, but how do parents and loved ones cope when a child commits suicide?

Most of us can't even imagine what it would be like to lose a child in an accident, or assault or as a result of an illness. Can you imagine then how much more difficult, emotionally, it might be for a parent to lose a child as a result of suicide? Though suicides amongst children and teens are not very common, tragically they do happen.

Parental Guilt When A Child Commits Suicide

When a child suicides, it brings about not only the usual emotions found in the grieving process, but, in addition, often brings about a great sense of guilt for parents, family members and close friends. "Could I have done more?" "Might I have prevented the suicide if only I had..."

There is often frustration between the two parents with regard to what could have or should have been done that might have prevented the depression or behavior that led to the suicide. Anger is a normal part of the grief reaction, and in the case of a suicide of a child, that anger can lead to fights between the parents or between parents and friends of the child about what "could have or should have" been done to prevent the suicide.

Impact of Child Suicide

When I was in training, I was taught that parents who lose a child, especially to suicide, were more likely to divorce than other couples. Fortunately, a review of the research literature shows that this is not the case. While it is certainly true that the death of a child (especially from suicide) can strain a marital relationship, there is no evidence that the suicide is more likely to result in separation or divorce than other causes of marital discord. In some cases, the loss and bereavement may, in fact, strengthen a relationship although it often takes years before the effects of the death of a child result in stabilization of a relationship.

Coping with the Suicide of a Child

Most of the experts agree that the best thing to do following the loss of a child, especially to suicide, is to find a support group that understands and can help the bereaved parents cope with the feelings that they may have and yet not understand very well. This may be accomplished through finding a formal support group, or getting counseling from a mental health professional, clergyman, or both.

On the HealthyPlace TV show, we will talk about surviving the suicide of a child. I believe that it will be a very emotionally important show and a show that will provide strength to those going through the bereavement process, as well as those who care as about and for those parents.

Tuesday July 7 (5:30p PT, 7:30 CT, 8:30 ET live and on-demand on our website).

Dr. Harry Croft is a Board-Certified Psychiatrist and Medical Director of Dr. Croft is also the co-host of the HealthyPlace TV Show.

next: Living with OCD: A Life of Obsessions and Compulsions
~ other mental health articles by Dr. Croft

Last Updated: January 14, 2014

Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD