fbpx I Feel Responsible for My Brother's Suicide
Authored by Dr. Michelle Murray on January 5, 2021
Dear Dr. Michelle:

I lost my brother to suicide in October 2019 and it’s been so hard. I feel like I caused his suicide and failed to save him. I’m not sleeping, I don’t have any energy and I’m starting to have thoughts of suicide myself. Where do I go from here?


Dear Dennie:

I am so sorry for the loss of your brother. I can sense your deep pain. A suicide is a horrible experience to endure and it takes time to heal and understand such situations. Based on the feeling you have described it is highly possible you are depressed. Depression can certainly result from you carrying the burden of your brother’s suicide. The fact you are blaming yourself for his death, and experiencing some of your own feelings of suicide, leads me to recommend therapy with a professional who specializes in grief and loss. You can use this link to find a qualified professional in your area here.

I am very concerned that you are contemplating suicide. If you are having active thoughts about hurting yourself, please call 911 or the National Suicide Hotline at 800-273-8255 and ask for immediate help. In addition to reaching out to one of these resources, you need to tell a family member or a friend about your thoughts so that they can check in with you and offer personal support.

Sleep Deprivation

Regarding your lack of sleep, it is important to know that without sleep, your brain and body is not functioning at its healthiest capacity – leading to more depression and an inability to think clearly about your situation. A therapist can help you evaluate effective ways to sleep so that you have the emotional and cognitive strength to keep yourself safe and on the path of healing.

I know it is not easy to accept this fact, but you need to understand that no matter what you knew, said, did, or did not do, you are not responsible for your brother’s suicide. One sure truth in life is that we do not have control over another person’s feelings, thoughts, actions, or the ultimate decisions they make, regardless of how much we think we do. You are not responsible for your brother’s death.

How A Therapist Can Help

If you are having a hard time believing that you are not responsible for his suicide, a therapist can help you sort through the reasons you are taking so much responsibility. They can help you better understand the specific circumstances surrounding your brother’s death and walk you through the stages of grief and loss to help you self-assess why you feel so guilty. Sometimes in order to resolve our grief, we need to forgive ourselves and sometimes we need to forgive the person we have lost. As you work through the grief process, it will be important for you to learn how to accept what “could have been,” “what was,” and the things you cannot change.

Again, I am sorry that you are going through such a hard time. Your response means you are feeling pain and do not know how to experience that pain in order to move on. Even if you have tried therapy before, the fact that you are still experiencing problems means that you need to find a different therapist and keep trying. I am sure you have other people in your life that care about you and what happens to you as much as you care about what happened to your brother. I wish you a journey of hope and healing.

Dear Dr. Michelle blog posts are informational in nature.  The posts are not meant to take the place of consulting your physician, mental health professional, or other qualified health providers regarding your well-being or the well-being of others.

Dr. Michelle Murray