Supporting others after suicide

How do I support others after suicide? What do I say? What do I do?

Source: Standby Support After Suicide. Download PDF of Ideas for Support.


Listen – I may have intense emotions that could include anger, sadness, fear and guilt. Be prepared for any or all reactions, you cannot take these away, but being there, listening and showing you care can be comforting

Share memories – don’t be afraid to talk about the person who died and what they meant to you. It is important for me.

Understand – the healing process takes time, it can take months or years to find a liveable place for my loss. Remembering birthdays and special days can be particularly difficult.

Be OK with silence – do not feel compelled to talk because you may feel uncomfortable. Don’t try and fix me, for now just sit with me

Remember – I may need assistance with accessing information, medical/psychological support or meeting other responsibilities. It may be useful for you to be my driver, make essential phone calls, or assist me in meeting my children’s needs

Practical support – offer practical support such as making a meal, doing shopping, gardening or washing

Nurture relationships – keep in touch regularly. There may be times when offers are refused but keep trying. If you don’t know what to say, be honest and say ‘ I don’t know what to say but I am here for you’. A note or text in between other contact with words such as I’m thinking or you or I miss them too lets me know I’m not alone

Language – the language you use should not judge the way my loved one died

Be kind – to yourself as you may also be affected by the loss and have your own grief to work through.

Suicide and Bereavement (AISRAP)


Source: Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention and Postvention Australia (AISRAP) Postvention Australia Guidelines: A resource for organisations and individuals providing services to people bereaved by suicide.  Download PDF of Guidelines.

Research has shown that compared to those bereaved by other types of death, including accidental death, people bereaved by suicide may show higher levels of shame, responsibility, guilt, rejection, blame (self-and/or others), personal and public stigma, sense of isolation, and trauma.

The constructionist theory of bereavement proposes that grieving involves actively reconstructing a world of meaning that has been challenged by loss.

Suicide bereavement may also be experienced as a transformational process of positive change (such as finding new purpose in life, which is known as post-traumatic growth (PTG)

People bereaved by suicide have a higher risk of suicidal behaviour, mental health disorders and complicated grief, which may require clinical interventions – Postvention is therefore a significant form of suicide prevention.

Factors impacting bereavement

  • Kinship and quality (closeness) of the relationship
  • Age and gender of the bereaved, as well as personal or family history of mental illness, coping mechanisms and personality
  • Deceased’s age, physical or mental illness or history of suicidal behaviour
  • Circumstances of death incl finding the body, violence and circumstances in which death occurred
  • Culture – values, attitudes and belief systems incl Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, and CALD communities
  • Availability of formal and informal support and their quality

Taking care of yourself at events

Attending a suicide prevention event or activity, be that a conference, a workshop or public awareness event, can present a whole range of emotions for people with a lived experience of suicide.

Tips for a positive experience…

Think about what you hope to take away from attending – what are your expectations? Are they realistic?

  • Create or revisit your ‘self-care plan’ before you arrive;
    • Who are people you can talk to at the event?
    • Who can you call during the event or at the end of a day?
    • Is there somewhere close by to the event where you can take time out when you feel like some breathing space?
    • Plan something that gives you pleasure, calms you for the end of each day.
  • Remember that your lived experience is just as valued and important as anyone else’s
  • Be curious – about conversations you have, presentations you hear, emotions you feel. Being curious can sometimes create space between your emotion and what may be causing it. It can help us be mindful and choose how we react and feel.
  • Give yourself permission, to take time out for you, any point
  • Its absolutely okay to walk out of a room, away from a conversation that is not helpful for you, or is making you feel emotions that are uncomfortable.
  • It’s okay not to attend every session – choose what sessions you go to carefully, and plan ‘you’ time when you simply sit in the sun, relax in the breakout room
  • Be flexible and allow yourself to change your mind or plans depending on how you are feeling.
  • Make use of the support being offered at the event – counsellors, peers, mindfulness activities

How can I politely let people know that a conversation is not good for me?

“I recognise that this is a really useful conversation for you, but at this moment it’s not great for me, so with all respect I’m going to step away”

“I’m not comfortable answering that question”

“Some parts of my story are very private to me and I have chosen not to share those aspects”

“Every lived experience is so valuable – my experience was different to that, and that’s okay that we have different perceptions”

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