Grief Statue SAS
Grief and Loss, Supporting a Suicide Loss Survivor

How to help a survivor when you hear of the death

Many people feel awkward and nervous when first spending time with a suicide bereaved person. It will take some time to learn how to respond. It is okay to feel awkward but you don’t need to let it prevent you showing support.

  • Contact the person when you hear of the death.
  • Tell them you are sorry to hear of their loss, or send a card or flowers.
  • maintain contact personally or by telephone, notes, cards. Visits need not be long.
  • Listen: This is possibly the most important thing you can do.
  • invite them to talk about the person who has died, mention the person’s name, ask to see photos, share stories.
  • Accept their behaviour – crying, being quiet, laughing. Allow expressions of anger, guilt and blame.
  • Offer specific practical help, such as bringing in a cooked meal, taking care of the children, cutting the grass, shopping.
  • Really try to understand and accept the person. Everyone is different and a range of responses are normal.
  • Be patient. People may need to tell their story over and over again without interruption or judgement.
  • Include children and young people in the grieving process and be aware that they may have particular need for support.
  • Be aware of and acknowledge special times that might be significant, and particularly difficult, for the bereaved person such as Christmas, anniversaries, birthdays, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day etc.
  • Realize your feelings of awkwardness and helplessness are normal. Listening and ‘being with the person who is grieving can be a wonderful support.
  • Look after yourself. Set limits as you need. To support a grieving person you need to maintain your own wellbeing.
  • Say their name. You may think that talking about, or saying the name of their loved one who died by suicide, will remind them of the loss and upset them. However, the opposite is almost always true. They are thinking about their loved one every minute. When you say their name and talk about them it often helps ease the pain.

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