Many people who lose someone to suicide feel distressed, alone and helpless. As there is a social stigma surrounding the subject of suicide, many people struggle to openly talk about it without feeling uncomfortable.
The love and support of friends and family at this time is very important to anyone grieving. While grief can feel extremely challenging, it is eased by positive and non-judgemental support.
Here are 10 things to remember if your loved ones have lost someone through suicide.
1. Offering practical support is often helpful
One of the first things your loved one needs after suffering bereavement is practical support, as they come to terms with what has happened. During this difficult period many people struggle with the smaller things.
Try to think about the little, day-to-day things, such as their children and pets. They may require babysitting as your loved one makes arrangements. Simply offering to cook a meal for your loved one and their family could help to lighten the load.
2. Welcome any conversation offered
While feeling awkward or helpless is understandable, it is important to show your desire to comfort your loved one.
Try not to avoid the subject of suicide – instead, try to welcome it with open arms. Seeming even slightly hesitant to discuss the subject can create a barrier between you and your loved one, making it harder for them to discuss their grief with you.
3. Being present is very supportive
At times of distress, many people can feel alone and lost. Try to show you are there every few days, by checking in to see if they are okay. Rather than sending a text, consider visiting their home or giving them a ring. This will help your loved one to feel less isolated, and they will know they can openly discuss their emotions with you.
4. Make initial contact
If you find out from someone besides your loved one, try to contact them as soon as possible, rather than waiting to hear from them. Tell them you are sorry for their loss, and offer support if they need anything.
5. Being open will help your loved one
Instead of waiting for your loved one to bring up their loss, try to bring up the subject of the person who has died. It is important to use their name so your loved one doesn’t feel like they are being forgotten.
6. They may need someone to listen to them
Ask your loved one how they are feeling, and really listen to their answer. Ask follow up questions, and try to understand everything they are saying and feeling.
7. Consider who is grieving
There may be other people you know and love grieving the loss of the same person. Does your loved one have children or a partner? Try to include everyone you think may be silently grieving in your support.
8. Accept their emotions and behaviour
Understand that your loved one is going through a hard time. Respect the intensity of their grief, and allow them to grieve in a way that suits them.
They may feel overwhelmed by their emotions, and they may feel overcome with emotion when they aren’t expecting to. Simply try to provide support if you are with them and they are feeling emotional.
9. Patience is important
Grieving someone who was lost to suicide is extremely painful and often confusing. Understand that the grief is long-term and will not simply disappear. It will take a long time for your loved one to come to terms with what has happened, and they may need to talk about the situation over and over again for that to happen.
10. Accept it is normal to feel helpless
It is completely normal to feel helpless and awkward when spending time with someone who is grieving. You want to provide them with emotional support, but you may feel like you are incapable of doing so. Try to remember your support is always helpful, so you can push through any inadequacies you feel.