Suicide grief support: Caregiver suggestions are just that… suggestions...
The grieving process is unique to each person.
These suggestions were put together with input from other suicide loss survivors. We hope you find them helpful.
It may feel uncomfortable speaking with someone who has experienced such a deep trauma. You may worry you will say the “wrong” thing. We encourage you to initiate and offer support regardless of how ill-prepared you may be feeling.
- Saying, “you know you can call me if you need anything,” is fine but not if it’s the only thing you say. Initiate.
- Listen, listen, listen. Even if your friend is sharing the same memories over and over.
- Say their loved one’s name.
- Share memories of their loved one in the months and years to come.
- Bring food that can be easily frozen and saved for later and write the date on the outside of the packaging.
- Encourage choices that are being made to honor their loved one.
- Try to match the emotional tone the survivor is setting. It’s okay to shed tears and it’s okay to laugh. Take their lead.
- Don’t say, “I know” or “I understand” even if you are a survivor of a trauma or suicide loss. Grief is unique – this person’s relationship with their loved one was unique.
- Try not to say “committed suicide.” Rather say, “died by suicide.”
- Try not to ask “how are you?” That question is vague and overwhelming to someone recently bereaved. Ask specific questions, “how are you sleeping?” “Have you been able to go on one of your daily walks?”
- Do admit you are fearful of saying the “wrong thing” and give the griever permission to tell you if you say something they perceive as insensitive.
- Don’t ask detailed questions about why, how or if there was a note. Rather, listen without judgement if the survivor volunteers this information.
- Do not share personal information your friend has shared with you. Grief is intimate and being invited into someone’s grief journey is an honor.
Do NOT keep it a secret if your friend is having thoughts of suicide. And do not judge or overreact to these thoughts. Calmly ask more questions. View suggested questions here.
For additional suggestions from suicide loss survivors visit the Alliance of Hope website.
Do you have suggested tips? We would love to hear from you!