What do I say?

Knowing what to say to a person bereaved by suicide can be a big challenge.

A few guidelines are listed below:

  • Try not to say 'committed' suicide. This language harks back to historic times when suicide was a crime and a mortal sin and some bereaved people find it distressing and stigmatising. You can say ‘died by suicide’, ‘suicided’, or ‘took their life’.
  • Do not use clichés and platitudes to try and comfort by saying things like “you're so strong”, “time will heal”, “he's at peace now”, “you have other children”, “you'll get married again” or “I know how you feel”. While well-intentioned, they rarely comfort and can leave the bereaved person feeling misunderstood and more isolated.
  • Don't avoid the subject of suicide. This can create a barrier making it hard for them to discuss personal issues later.
  • Avoid judgments about the person who suicided such as saying they were selfish, cowardly or weak, or even brave or strong. People need to come to their own understanding of the person and what has happened.
  • Avoid simplistic explanations for the suicide. Suicide is very complex and there are usually many contributing factors.
  • Listen and hear their experience.
  • Be truthful, honest and aware of your limitations: acknowledge if you don't understand or know how to react to what they are going through.
  • Say the name of the person who has died and talk about them. Not saying their name can leave the bereaved feeling as though the one who died is being forgotten or dismissed.
  • Be aware of those who are grieving who may be overlooked, for example, siblings, children, grandparents, and friends.
  • Ask "How are you getting along?" and then really listen to the response. Stay and listen and try to understand. Allow the person to speak whatever they need to say however difficult and complex it is.

Crisis support

If you are in an emergency, or at immediate risk of harm to yourself or others, please contact emergency services on 000. Other services include:

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