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Lara’s story: Losing someone I love to suicide

Every grief journey is uniquely complex and deeply personal. Nothing can prepare an individual or a family for the moment that you’re told you have lost someone to suicide.

Content Warning: The following article discusses suicide and could be triggering.

My story began in August 2019, when the police came to my door to tell me that my wonderful and only brother, Graeme, had died by suicide.

It was a Saturday evening and we were relaxing and having some early evening drinks with friends, laughing and joking about the day, when there was a knock on our door. The police officer asked me if I had a brother who lived in Edinburgh and then the rest of what was said was a blur… although I do remember that the words “committed suicide” were used. My head swum, I felt sick and I know I fell to the ground outside our home.

Edinburgh police had found my contact details in an address book in my brother’s home and contacted our local police to come and tell me about the suicide. One short visit to pass on the news and then they walked away. I was left to break the news to our elderly parents, my sister and all of Graeme’s friends and colleagues. There was no information on what would happen next.  Nothing on who to call or how to retrieve Graeme’s body. Not even leaflets on where to go for help or support. In fact, there was no support at all. It felt like a bomb had gone off and I was utterly bewildered.

“Nothing can prepare you for that moment. To hear that someone you love, and have spent your life loving, has chosen to end their own life. It’s unthinkable and horrific. After the initial shock started to wear off, I was left with overwhelming feelings of despair, guilt, anger and shame, alongside a never-ending list of unanswerable questions.”

Luckily, I had a husband who picked me and my family up, and carried us all through the following days, weeks and months. He spoke to the police; the Procurator Fiscal; he went to my brother’s home and made it ok for us to visit. But most importantly, he made us talk. And for a family where difficult conversations were generally avoided, this was hard.

But for me, it turned out that talking was key to helping process my pain. In the weeks and months following Graeme’s suicide, I was obsessed about all the signs I had missed and all the things I could have done to prevent his death. I felt so guilty and ashamed that I hadn’t known how bad he felt.

And I couldn’t let go of being told that Graeme had ‘committed suicide’. Hearing these words from a police officer was so upsetting.

“He hadn’t committed a crime. He had died in the saddest of ways. When I started to confide how I felt to my husband, it opened a floodgate of emotions. But talking it through and gradually expressing the pain, the guilt and all those difficult emotions helped. And it continues to do so.”

It was sometime later, when the rawness of my grief had made way for something more manageable, that I was able to reflect on that initial period after Graeme died. I was struck by the lack of support: the lack of communication from the police, my GP, even my children’s school… and the very clear and still thriving stigma around suicide. I realised that those feelings had been experienced by so many others, many without a partner to guide them through the horror of losing a loved one in this way.

When I saw the role of Suicide Bereavement Support Service Manager with Change Mental Health being advertised, I knew that I had to apply. I felt compelled to work for a service that had been set up to help people like me: people, who never in a million years, thought this would happen to them or their family and who desperately needed the support we didn’t receive.

I have now been with the Suicide Bereavement Support team for three years. We provide a free, confidential and safe place for people bereaved by suicide to talk about their feelings and to be heard; and we can also help in practical ways by talking to the police, social workers and health professionals. All our support is delivered one-to-one: over the phone, in person or over video calling. Our service is compassionate and flexible and we are completely led by the needs of the individual.

Since our launch in August 2021, we have received over 300 referrals across the areas in which we work – Highland and Argyll & Bute, and Ayrshire & Arran.

As someone who sees the benefit of our service every day and knows the huge positive impact it is having on people’s lives, I am delighted that the Scottish Government has seen the value in what we do and has embedded the delivery of Suicide Bereavement Support into the new Suicide Prevention Strategy. Our service is currently funded to the end of March 2026 and we are looking at an expansion into other areas of Scotland. This means that more and more people bereaved by suicide will be able to get the support they need, when they need it and in a way which works best for them.


The Suicide Bereavement Support Service is free and confidential for anyone who has lost a loved one to suicide in Highland and Argyll & Bute. You can call the service on 0800 471 4768 and leave a message or you can email direct at The team will get back to you within 24 hours.


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