By Maryse Eubank, M.Ed.
When we hear someone has died by suicide, our hearts go out to those that are left behind. Grief related to a suicide loss can be quite complex and very intense. So how can we best support those who are the survivors, keeping in mind this may include their immediate family, but also their close friends and coworkers?
Here are some tips for support:
Reach out and connect with the survivor. Say something! I promise you that you will not be reminding them of their loss.
Some helpful things you can say:
- Can I sit with you? (Expect to do nothing more if this is your offer – sometimes this is all the individual needs).
- I remember when _________. He/she was always so _________.
- May I bring you dinner/help you clean up your kitchen/deliver you anything? Be specific.
- Do you want to talk about your loved one? Be ready to listen.
- How are you really doing?
- Are you having any thoughts about hurting yourself? Tips on how to have this conversation.
- Can I help you find professional or group support?
- I found these pictures of ________ and thought you might want to have them.
- Use their loved one’s name.
- Do you need any help with the associated paperwork?
- I brought over some information about support options (individual grief therapists, support groups, lifeline/emergency numbers, online supports) for when you are ready.
Avoid the following statements or questions:
- I know what you are going through.
- You know, I felt ______ when (another person/pet) died.
- What happened?
- At least he/she is at peace now.
- I think it is time for you to move on.
- Did you know he/she was going to take their life?
- Why did they do it?
- This shall pass / things will get better.
Encourage the respect of individualism in grief. Help the survivor(s) see that there is no right or wrong way to grieve.
Help in the planning of upcoming events or dates (anniversaries, holidays, birthdays).
Check back in regularly…and for a long time. So often those who offer support stop doing so too soon. Be the one that remembers.