People bereaved by suicide can feel alone and isolated because of the social stigma - they feel the pain of the loss, yet believe they are not allowed to express it.
Tips for providing support:
- A strong social support network of friends and family can make a big difference; Grief is challenging, and a network of friends and family can make it much easier.
- Don't be surprised or alarmed by the intensity of their feelings; Intense feelings can come in waves, and when you least expect it. Know that each wave will subside.
- Accept that they may be struggling with new and sometimes conflicting emotions: including guilt, fear, blame, anger, regret and shame.
- Bereaved people need compassion, empathy, reassurance, recognition of what has happened, and validation of their feelings.
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. We’ve listed some ideas for practical support below:
- Offer to notify people of the death
- Help with tasks and chores e.g. look after kids, cook meals, do the washing, shopping
- Organise the funeral e.g. do a guest lists, organise invitations, venue for the wake
- Financial considerations e.g. funeral payment, any bills that are due
Grief is an unpredictable beast and comes in many different forms. Allow people to grieve in the way that is most natural and comfortable for them - there is no “right way” to grieve.
Some ways you can provide emotional support:
- 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’.
- Maintain contact personally or by telephone, text, notes, cards. Keep visits short unless you sense they might like you to stay longer.
- 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.
- Be patient. People may need to tell their story repeatedly, without interruption or judgment. This helps them to come to terms with, and make sense of, what has happened.
- 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 Christmas, anniversaries, birthdays.
- Understand that grief doesn’t have a timeframe – it is unpredictable.
- Try not to be surprised or alarmed by the intensity of feeling. Grief comes in waves and people can be overwhelmed when they least expect it.