How to Help a Friend Who’s Lost a Loved One to Suicide

Helping a friend who’s lost a loved one from suicide can be difficult. Words can leave people encouraged, or unintentionally inflict additional pain.
But don’t let your fear of saying the wrong thing keep you from reaching out.

 

Image: David Castillo / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How we face a crisis often depends on what kind of support we receive. What not to do is as important as what to do when a friend has lost a loved one from suicide. Here are suggestions from people who have been there.

Don’t assume marriage relationships are fine. Two drowning people cannot save each other. In the case of a loss of a child, gently ask your friend how their marriage is holding up. You may be the one to help a grieving couple seek appropriate counseling.

Avoid clichés. “God must have needed another angel,” is not only unbiblical but reduces God to a needy, selfish deity. It’s better to say, “I’m sorry.”

Resist saying, “At least your loved one is in a better place.” Saying at least insults the griever by minimizing their pain.

* Listen if someone wants to talk about the loss, but never pressure. Leave the door open for conversation and reminiscing by asking, “How are you?”

Don’t think it’s too late to offer support. Grief can be a lengthy process. Long after others have moved on, you may be the perfect one to encourage someone who is still sad.

Don’t try to distract the griever by keeping them busy. Unless asked, don’t clean out articles that belonged to the one who died. Grief cannot be avoided; it must be walked through. And grief has its own timetable.

*Don’t say, “Call if I can do something.” They won’t. Instead, offer something practical. “I am going to the store. What can I pick up for you?”

 

PLEASE

PLEASE, don’t ask me if I’m over it yet.

I’ll never be over it.

PLEASE, don’t tell me she’s in a better place.

She isn’t here with me.

PLEASE, don’t say at least she isn’t suffering.

I haven’t come to terms with why she had to suffer at all.

PLEASE, don’t tell me you know how I feel.

Unless you have lost a child.

PLEASE, don’t ask me if I feel better.

Bereavement isn’t a condition that clears up.

PLEASE, don’t tell me at least you had her for so many years.

What year would you choose for your child to die?

PLEASE, don’t tell me God never gives us more than we can bear.

PLEASE, just say you are sorry.

PLEASE, just say you remember my child, if you do.

PLEASE, just let me talk about my child.

PLEASE, mention my child’s name.

PLEASE, just let me cry.

 

By Rita Moran

Compassionate Friends

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About ThinkingAboutSuicide.com

If depressed and suicidal, get help by dialing the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), a free, 24-hour hotline. IF IN IMMEDIATE DANGER of harming yourself or someone else, please call 911.1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) or (in Spanish)
1-877-SUICIDA (1-877-784-2432).
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Our blog, Thinking About Suicide, offers personal stories and prayers from those who have overcome the urge to commit suicide or lost someone to suicide. We also list resources related to depression, bullying, cutting and other mental health related topics or news.
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Use our SEARCH box at the top of the page to find articles on specific topics. Our authors hope to encourage you and remind you that others in situations like yours have found hope and help. We hope and pray you do too. However, we also encourage you to get local help if you are suicidal: call a counselor or the suicide prevention hotline to connect personally with someone who can help you.

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