How to help a grieving family after a suicide

Grief and grieving

It was difficult for people to know what to say to us after we’d lost a child in such a shocking way but don’t let fear of saying the wrong thing prevent you from reaching out. We appreciated those who were there for us and visited often. I felt cut off and if my friends had not kept coming, I think I might have felt isolated, blamed and stigmatized. I know that there were people who blamed us.

It did not help when the odd person said; “’Things will get better. At least David is no longer suffering.’  Did she say things would get  better? That was inaccurate and would not be true for a very long time to come. It was also a hollow assurance. I felt as if that person had not really wanted to hear me express my pain and grief.

The worst thing that anyone could do to me was ask for a detailed explanation of how David died. Of course we spoke about it, but much later. There were times when we felt as though we were being grilled by a policeman or a lawyer when asked; ‘Did he leave a note?’ “Did you suspect anything? Did you keep an eye on him all the time?’

What we wanted was to reminisce about David’s life at school, his life as a sportsman or simply as our son. We wanted to talk about him. Suicide was not the most important thing about David. We wanted to share stories and memories, hear his name mentioned, listen to someone remind us how he had made candy floss when he was young, for example, and had the whole neighborhood in our garden lining up to buy some of this goo. We wished we could talk to his cousins about their memories as our children had spent so much time together.

If someone had asked; ‘Do you want to talk about what happened?’ that was fine, but only if the person had been prepared to listen – really listen.

I appreciated it when someone offered to run errands, cook, bake or shop for us, or simply sit and keep us company. When I was asked, ‘What can I do to help?’ I was most appreciative and accepted the help.

When I returned to work I appreciated it when people asked how I was coping because I was still grieving. It went on for a long time. There were friends who acknowledged emotional days such as David’s birthday or the anniversary of his death, by calling or mailing. This was a touching way of them to demonstrate their support.



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