What grieving people need
People bereaved by suicide can feel alone and isolated because of the social stigma. They may feel the pain of the loss, yet believe they are not allowed to express it.
You can help by giving them a safe and supportive space to grieve. Offer practical and emotional support and help them to maintain a strong, social support network.
Safe, supportive spaces
Someone grieving a suicide loss needs a safe, supportive and non-judgemental space to:
- be really listened to and heard
- tell their story as many times as they need
- express their grief in their own way and in their own time.
Strong, social support network
A strong social support network of friends and family can make a big difference. To help build and maintain a support network:
- Contact the person when you hear of the death. Let them know you’re sorry for their loss or send a card or flowers. If you don’t know what to say, you can just write ‘thinking of you’.
- Include children and young people in the grieving process and be aware that they need support.
- Be aware of and acknowledge special times that might be significant and particularly difficult, such as holidays, anniversaries, birthdays.
- Maintain contact personally or by telephone, text, notes, cards. Keep visits short unless you sense they might like you to stay longer.
Many grieving people will find it difficult to ask for support and may also have difficulty making decisions or identifying ways you can assist. Check in to see what they need – but be proactive and pitch in too.
Practical support could include:
- offer to notify people of the death
- help with tasks and chores - look after the kids, cook meals, do the washing, shopping
- help to organise the funeral - create a guest lists, organise invitations, book a venue for the wake
- financial support – help with funeral costs and any bills that are due.
Intense feelings of grief can come in waves and when you least expect it. Know that each wave will subside.
There is no ‘right way’ to grieve and doesn’t have a timeframe. Allow people to grieve in the way that is most natural and comfortable for them.
The person you’re supporting may be struggling with new and sometimes conflicting emotions including guilt, fear, blame, anger, regret and shame.
Emotional support could include:
- Listening without judgement - 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, silence, anger, laughter.
- Be patient - people may need to tell their story repeatedly. This helps them to come to terms with, and make sense of, what has happened.