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How To Cope With Losing a Friend to Suicide

1st Sgt. Bryan Smethurst, conducts end-of-tour counseling with Staff Sgt. Shannon Knorr

In this Article:

  • Everyone’s healing process is different.
  • Try to focus your energy on what you can do for yourself to recover and heal.
  • Connect to free counseling near you with the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS).

Losing a friend to suicide can be the hardest thing a Soldier—or anyone—faces. If you’ve lost a friend or battle buddy, you’re not alone.

By understanding the range of emotions you may experience and the support resources available, you can begin recovery.

Recovery Is Different for Everyone

An important step to coping with your loss is to recognize and understand your emotions.

Everyone heals differently—there’s no right or wrong way. Be honest and accept what you’re feeling. If you ignore your emotions, you may only delay recovery.

You May Ride an Emotional Rollercoaster

After a friend’s suicide, you may feel despair, anger, betrayal, guilt, or pain. These emotions are common. It’s okay to feel all of them. It’s also okay to feel nothing at all.

  • You may be really mad. It’s common to feel anger toward your friend—or at the world—for letting this happen. If you feel angry, don’t repress it, let it out. Expressing your anger will make it easier to work through your emotions. Cry, scream, yell, write, exercise, talk to a friend or family member.
  • You may feel guilty. Guilt comes from a mistaken belief that you could have prevented the suicide. While you may feel responsible for your friend, ultimately, you are not. Try to focus your energy on what you can do for yourself to recover and heal.
  • You may feel isolated. Suicide isn’t well understood and people may have a hard time talking about it. Others may not understand what you’re going through. Seek support from people you trust. If you can’t find support from friends or family, seek help from a chaplain or psychological health coordinator in your state or your CO.
  • You may question the goodness they brought to your life. By letting your friend’s suicide overshadow the positive, it can strip meaning from their life and your friendship. Instead of dwelling on events you can’t change, recall the good times you shared.
  • You may move backwards. The path to healing isn’t a straight line. There may be days when you feel better or worse. This is natural. Coping with your loss will get easier over time even if it doesn’t feel that way right now.

Finding Support Is Critical

It’s important to have support during this difficult time. Identify friends, family, or a professional you can talk to if you’re feeling overwhelmed.

You can locate free counseling and support services from the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS).

If you have thoughts about hurting yourself, contact the Military Crisis Line, which offers free, confidential support 24/7. Call 800-273-TALK (8255), then press 1. You can also chat online or send a text to 838255.