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When Your Child Loses a Friend to Suicide

Category: 

Bereavement Relief

Posted On: Feb 13, 2017

When Your Child Loses a Friend to Suicide

Suicide is a taboo topic under most circumstances, something discussed in whispers and cloaked in euphemisms. However, when your child loses a friend to suicide, you no longer have the luxury of avoiding the topic or discussing it in the abstract. The subject is now in your home, glaring and urgent and heartbreaking. Walking your child through such a devastating tragedy is just as painful as the death of her or his friend. Take care, have patience, and be as honest and open as possible.

Get Your Feelings in Order First

It's essential to cope with your feelings over this tragic, unexpected loss. You may want to reach out to the parents of the child who passed, even if you're not terribly close. The horrifying thing is that you realize that this could have happened to your child under a different set of circumstances. It's terrifying and infuriating to realize that and to come to terms with the reality that a child was, for some reason, driven to this final, hopeless act.

Let Your Child Talk, but Avoid Gossip

When you're ready to approach your child, your most important job is to listen. There are things you have to explain, of course, and those subjects are hard to discuss, but your child will likely have questions. Many of them will not have answers. It's thus vital to avoid gossiping about the reason why your child's friend took her or his own life. You don't know. Neither of you can know. Even if your conjecture seems gentle and well-meaning, you must logically realize that your child might share those theories with other kids. That's how rumors spread, and your family shouldn't contribute to that. It's hurtful.

Emphasize the Pain and Hopelessness Involved

You have to frame the conversation in a way that underlines the importance of recognizing feelings of depression, fear, or sadness without glamorizing the idea of suicide or blaming the victim in any way. Children, especially teens, need to know that there's nothing interesting about suicide. They also need to know how to recognize feelings of hopelessness in themselves and others. Most of all, talk to your child about reaching out. Let her or him know that someone, somewhere, is always willing to listen.

We hope we never need to have these conversations with our children, but in reality, we do. Love them, most of all. Let them be open about their feelings.