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Comforting a Loved One Who Lost Someone to Suicide

Category: 

Bereavement Relief

Posted On: Feb 03, 2017

Comforting a Loved One Who Lost Someone to Suicide

Suicide is a touchy, often taboo subject, which is unfortunate and unhealthy for a number of reasons. It is heartbreaking when someone reaches that point, and if you have empathy and compassion, then your heart aches for the person who felt so hopeless and alone, and for her or his family and friends. The unease surrounding the subject of suicide makes things more difficult for the people left behind. They are desperately in need of comfort, but there's a correct, compassionate way to offer it.

Don't Avoid the Subject

This strategy is understandable, to a degree – you worry that talking about it directly is painful for the bereaved. Avoiding the issue or dancing around it is more likely to make the grieving friend or relative feel uncomfortable, however. Again, this treats suicide as a forbidden subject, as if it's still a crime. Be direct without being rude, invasive, or inappropriate. As a general rule, try to avoid saying that the deceased “committed” suicide, which sounds more judgmental than anything.

Never Make Judgments

Victim-blaming has no place here. Save your opinions for the privacy of your own home – or, better yet, don't judge. Don't refer to the person who died as weak, selfish, or even brave. That isn't your place, even if the bereaved says something first. Let her or him vent.

Stay Away from Platitudes and Simple Explanations

The person in mourning neither needs nor wants to hear about how time heals all wounds. Don't fall to trite good wishes or meaningless platitudes. You mean well, but they only offer cold comfort at best. Speak freely of your memories of the deceased. If you have questions, ask them in a sensitive manner. Don't try to explain away the suicide as if it's simple or easily understood. It's not.

Listen As Much As You Can

Offer your ear as well as your shoulder. If the bereaved needs to vent, figure out the tragedy, cry, scream, or remember, then sit and listen. Maybe s/he needs to sit there in silence without saying a word. The best role for you is a quiet companion providing emotional support.

This is a difficult time for everyone. Try not to make it uncomfortable – that isn't necessary. As long as you are kind, caring, and empathetic, you won't make a misstep.