It Takes a Family to Comfort a Family
Resources to Share with Families Grieving a Death by Suicide
The loss of a loved one to suicide is a tragic event that defies understanding. It is important to realize that this is “complicated grief”, it often involves strong emotions of guilt and anger which need to be acknowledged and addressed.
The stigma can often leave a family without support when a family member loses someone to suicide. They are often left feeling too ashamed to reach out for help and others are often too afraid to reach out and bring up the death.
How to Take Care of Yourself
- Find a support group: You don’t have to cope with your loss alone. There are support groups specifically for those who have lost a loved one to suicide.
- Do what feels right to you: Don’t feel pressured to talk right away. If you choose to discuss your loss, speaking can give your friends and family the opportunity to support you in an appropriate way.
- Write: You may find it helpful to write your feelings or to write a letter to your lost loved one. This can be a safe place for you to express some of the things you were not able to say before the death.
- Ask for help: Don’t be afraid to let your friends provide support to you, or to look for resources in your community such as therapists, co-workers, or family members.
How to Help
Supporting someone who has lost a loved one can feel overwhelming and complex. There are ways to help.
- Accept their feelings: Loss survivors grapple with complex feelings after the death of a loved one by suicide, such as fear, grief, shame, and anger. Accept their feelings and be compassionate and patient and provide support without criticism.
- Use sensitivity during holidays and anniversaries: Events may bring forth memories of the lost loved one and emphasize this loved one’s absence.
- Use the lost loved one’s name: Use the name of the person who has died when talking to survivors. This shows that you have not forgotten this important person and can make it easier to discuss a subject that is often stigmatized.
Below are some resources that we have found that can help those families and friends begin to heal when a death by suicide occurs.
This helpful resource guide has various sections about coping with death by suicide. Some include returning to work, communicating with children, and guidelines for schools.
The Alliance of Hope is for suicide loss survivors. This organization reminds people that they are not alone in their loss. Their website includes an online forum where survivors can connect, resources for those who just lost someone to suicide, and a blog with helpful information about suicide loss.
This organization is unique because all of its staff and volunteers have been directly impacted by suicide. They have several publications, a monthly newsletter, and a suicide loss helpline — all resources to help your families.
If you or the families you serve are interested in starting a suicide support group, this is a great resource. In this guide you will find the importance of support groups, how to get started, potential drawbacks, and more.
Sometimes, after a person loses a loved one to suicide, they may consider taking their own life. This resource helps these individuals understand their feelings and learn strategies to cope with them.
If you or someone you know is showing warning signs of suicide or needs additional resources, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.