The above handout contains tips on what you can do or say to help a family member or friend who had recently been bereaved by suicide.
Friends and family often don’t know how to comfort and support someone who is recently bereaved by suicide. Listed below are helpful suggestions from people who have lost a loved one to suicide in how you can be of assistance.
- 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 – repeatedly. 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
Listed below are behaviours that aren’t helpful to your friends/family and should be avoided.
- 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 clichés 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