Coping after suicide

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

How do I create a Self Care Plan?

Planning our self-care is a proactive step to looking after our mental and emotional wellbeing. You may like to use this format, or you might already have something that you prefer. This activity is of course completely voluntary. As a person with a lived experience of suicide, choosing to engage in suicide prevention activities and sharing your very personal insights, perspectives and expertise, is a decision that deserves careful consideration.

We know that those of us who have lived experience also have developed incredible resilience and heightened insight into our own emotional wellbeing. Our desire to help others can however sometimes lead to us giving a lot of ourselves to others, which needs to be proactively managed and reviewed.

We also understand that a lived experience of suicide never leaves us, and that we can experience different emotions of varying intensity throughout any given time period. We may experience these reactions while preparing to be involved, while participating, or even in the days or weeks afterwards.

So, it is really important that we take time to identify some potential triggers for strong emotional responses, and plan to manage them. Furthermore, accepting that we live in a world of multiple stressors, not just our contribution through our lived experience, it is equally helpful to have some strategies in place to manage daily stress levels.

We don’t plan for a fire when the fire breaks out, we have a plan in place, and it is reviewed regularly. And so, it is for ourselves . . . the time to plan for our self-care is before we actually need to activate it!

Download our Self Care Plan worksheets