Supporting bereaved family & friends

Often friends may not know how to comfort and support someone who has been recently bereaved by suicide. These suggestions come from others who have lost a loved one to suicide and may be of assistance in helping friends to know what they can do:

  • Keep in touch on a regular basis. Don’t abandon your friend.
  • There may be times when your offers of help are refused. Try again later. If you feel awkward because you don’t know what to do or say, be honest – “I don’t know what to say… is there anything I can do?”
  • Listen to your friend’s story – over and over again. Listen without judging. Those who are bereaved will have intense feelings that are likely to include anger, sadness, fear and guilt. You cannot change this or take their pain away but you can help them by being there, caring and listening.
  • Send a note – if you don’t know what to say, you can just write “thinking of you”.
  • Share good memories of the person who died and what they meant to you.
  • Give your friend time to heal. Don’t expect that your friend or family member will be “over it” in a few weeks or months. It may take years. Try to remember birthdays and other special days. Be aware that these may be particularly difficult times.
  • Offer to do something practical such as making a meal, paying bills or doing the shopping or washing.
  • Offer to find out about resources and information for them.
  • Support your friend in accessing a counsellor if they are needing more help or have no “good” days.
  • Be kind to yourself. It can be draining to share your friend’s loss. You also may be affected by this loss  and have your own grief to deal with. Take time to do some special things for yourself.

Here are some things that will not be helpful:

  • Don’t avoid talking about the person who has died. It may seem that you are denying they ever existed which can be very hurtful.
  • Don’t use cliches such as “You must be strong” and “Life goes on.”
  • Don’t keep asking for details of the suicide.
  • Don’t blame or give reasons to explain the suicide.

An excerpt from Information & support packs for those bereaved by suicide or other sudden death, What friends can do

Further reading

Information & support packs for those bereaved by suicide or other sudden death
Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing as part of the National Suicide Prevention Strategy

Information & support packs for those bereaved by suicide or other sudden death are a redeveloped suite of resources produced by Urbis Keys Young in consultation with community and government stakeholders under the National Suicide Prevention Strategy. A unique pack has been created for each State and Territory, containing information on the process of loss and grief, how to talk to young people about suicide or sudden death, and services and resources available to people grieving.