Seven Things to Do When a Loved One Commits Suicide

Last week, the day before she was to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, singer Naomi Judd took her own life. She was 76 years old and left behind a husband, two daughters, and thousands of adoring fans. Her story has immeasurable value for those who deal with the debilitating pain of mental illness.

Naomi Judd


Talking About It

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity” (Prov. 17:17)


Naomi’s daughter, actress Ashley Judd, talked about her mother’s death in an emotional interview with Diane Sawyer on Good Morning America.


“Our mother couldn’t hang on until she was inducted into the Hall of Fame by her peers,” Ashley told Sawyer. “That is the level of catastrophe of what was going on inside of her, because the barrier between the regard in which they held her couldn’t penetrate into her heart, and the lie that the disease told her was so convincing.”


The false narrative the disease feeds the brain is powerful and deadly. Unfortunately, it’s a narrative that religion tends to feed as well.


No matter how forcefully we preach grace and love and forgiveness, a salvation-by-works mentality has an insidious way of working its way into our psyche.


People find it difficult to fully embrace the idea of the Gospel message – that although we are all equally unworthy of God’s love, each of our lives is of immeasurable value to God. The power of that message is that nothing can ever change it.


As the Apostle Paul wrote:

“And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen?” (Rom. 8:33, The Message).


He goes on to explain what God’s love does for us.

Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us – who was raised to life for us! – is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing …” (Rom. 8:34-35, The Message).

… not even suicide.


Paul then reveals the reason for his confidence.

“None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing – nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable – absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us” (Rom. 36-38, The Message).

Jesus died for us because he thought we were worth it.


Mental illness doesn’t change that. Suicide doesn’t change that. Nothing will ever change that.


The Survivors

“Even in laughter the heart may ache, and rejoicing may end in grief” (Prov. 14:13).


Ashley Judd and her sister, Winona (who was a lifelong singing partner with her mother and was also being inducted into the Hall of Fame), showed up at the Country and Western Music awards ceremony the day after their mother’s death. They accepted their mother’s induction into the Hall of Fame on her behalf.


Winona ended her brief speech by reading the 23rd Psalm and blowing a kiss heavenward to a thunderous standing ovation.



The two sisters were in obvious emotional pain. They didn’t try to hide it. They talked about their mother. They even laughed a little.


Side note: I have found humor at funerals to be incredibly healing.


These courageous sisters modeled for the world what it looks like to love and grieve and celebrate and endure.


Seven Things to Do When a Loved One Commits Suicide

Here are seven things to do when you lose a Loved One to suicide.

Accept your emotions.

You will naturally experience grief and despair, but other common feelings include shock, denial, guilt, shame, anger, confusion, anxiety, loneliness, and even, in some cases, relief.


Those feelings may surprise you, but they are normal too.

Don’t worry about what you “should” feel or do.

There’s no standard timeline for grieving and no single right way to cope. Focus on what you need, not on what you think you should be feeling based on what others have experienced.


You are not them and they are not you.

Care for yourself.

Do your best to get enough sleep and eat regular, healthy meals. Taking care of your physical self can improve your mood and give you the strength to cope.

Draw on existing support systems.

Accept help from those who have supported you in the past. Stay away from negative people. Lean into your established, safe spaces, such as family, friends, or members of your faith-based community.

Talk to someone.

There is often stigma around suicide, and many family members suffer in silence.


Understand that shame never comes from God. Speaking about your feelings can help.

Join a group.

Support groups can help you process your emotions alongside others who are experiencing similar feelings. People who don’t think of themselves as support group types are often surprised by how helpful such groups can be.

Talk to a professional.

Psychologists and other mental health professionals can help you express and manage your feelings and find healthy coping tools.


Whatever you are feeling, you don’t have to go through it alone. If you know someone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts, take action. Don’t assume that they will work through it. Don’t assume that they will find help.


If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text “STRENGTH” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to

If you or someone you know needs mental health help, text “STRENGTH” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor.