Supporting a Survivor of Suicide

Following a suicide, many people feel uncomfortable interacting with the suicide survivor. It is often at this difficult time that the survivor needs support the most.

Suicide survivors grieve in different ways and have different needs. You can support a survivor in many ways.

  • Listen attentively. There are many things the suicide survivor is trying to sort out. Simply listen and let them talk through their grief.
  • Allow the survivor to repeatedly talk about their loved one and how s/he died.
  • Realize that you do not know how the survivor feels.  Indicate that you are open to learning about this life experience by listening to the survivor.
  • Show and tell the survivor that you care.  Offer to help the survivor with errands, chores and child care.  Ask, “How may I help you?”
  • Talk about the person who died by suicide. You will certainly have some positive memories to share.   The survivor may fear that their loved one will be forgotten.
  • Call the survivor on special occasions such as their loved one’s death date and birthday date.
  • Support the survivor in the long term. The survivor will likely be grieving for a long time, quite possibly the rest of his/her life. Ask how they are doing in relation to their loss months and years down the road.
  • Watch out for the survivor’s well-being.  Survivors may go into deep depression without realizing it. Look for the symptoms of depressive illness.  Take action and get the survivor to a mental health professional if you suspect depression or thoughts of suicide.

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