Support after a Suicide Loss
988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline
If you have lost someone:
If you have lost someone to suicide, you are not alone. The experiences and feelings following a suicide loss can be painful, complex, and often overwhelming.
Grief is a natural human response to any loss including suicide. The grief in response to suicide can be complicated. Anger, guilt, shame, regret, and blame are common emotions people experience. It is ok to feel one of them, some of them, all of them or even none of them.
Stigma associated with suicide can make it difficult to be open or want to share your thoughts and feelings. Losing someone to suicide can put the loss survivor at increased risk of suicide thoughts. There are resources to help survivors of suicide loss cope.
Things to remember:
- There is no right or wrong way to grieve.
- It is ok to cry, it is ok to laugh.
- There is no specific timeline to grieve, take your time.
- Everyone experiences grief differently and that is ok.
- Give yourself and others permission and time to grieve.
- It is ok to ask for help.
Resources for Support:
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: I’ve lost someone
- Suicide Awareness Voices of Education: Coping with Suicide Loss
- After a Suicide Resource Directory
- The Compassionate Friends: Supporting Family After a Child Dies
- The Dougy Center for Grieving Children & Families
- Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors-Military Suicide Loss
Support someone you know who lost someone
Helping someone that has lost a loved one to suicide can be challenging, complex, and at times feel awkward. It can be hard to know what to say or do.
It is ok to feel uncomfortable or unsure about what to say or do, but do not let that stop you from offering support. Suicide loss survivors often feel isolated and alone due to the stigma associated with suicide. Friends and family are an important source of strength and support for suicide loss survivors.
Things to remember:
- Explore your own beliefs and attitudes about suicide.
- Be aware of your own limitations, learn how to respond, and think about your words.
- Talk to the person, do not avoid them, acknowledge to them you are sorry for their loss.
- Avoid judgments and accept they are experiencing intense and conflicting emotions.
- Listen openly and let the loss survivor share their story as often as needed.
- Be aware of local suicide grief support resources.
Tips for Practical and Emotional Supports:
- Check in to see what they need but also offer specific ways you will help.
- Cook meals, go grocery shopping, help with household chores, and offer to take care of children.
- Offer help with funeral planning and organizing.
- Say the lost loved one’s name when talking with suicide loss survivors.
- Sometimes it is ok to just be present with the person and not talk.
- Maintain contact by phone, text, notes, cards, and short visits even beyond the immediate death.
Resources to help support someone you know:
Tips for Talking with and Helping Children and Youth Cope After a Disaster or other Traumatic Event: A Guide for Parents, Caregivers and Teachers
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: Children, Teens, and Suicide Loss
American Association of Suicidology: Helping Survivors of Suicide
How to Talk to a Suicide Loss Survivor: A #RealConvo Guide from AFSP
NAMI Minnesota offers free information packets for professionals to distribute to families who have been impacted by a suicide Loss. Please contact: email@example.com to request a packet.
Responding to a loss in the community
A suicide death can have a ripple effect extending impact from people and families to whole communities. Communities that are prepared to respond after a suicide loss can support healing for those affected by a suicide death.
Organizations and communities can create and follow protocols to help reduce the risk of negative effects after a suicide and prevent suicide for those at increased risk after exposure to a suicide.
Having a plan can help your community respond quickly in the immediate aftermath of the death and in the long term. This organized response is called “postvention.” It is further detailed in the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention report Responding to Grief, Trauma, and Distress After a Suicide: U.S. National Guidelines.
The Minnesota State Suicide Prevention plan and the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention encourage communities, agencies, schools, and workplace settings to include both immediate and long-term response after a suicide death in their suicide prevention plans.
Community agencies should be prepared to be a part of a larger response to a suicide death in a community. Schools, behavioral health agencies, health care, law enforcement/first responders, spiritual/faith groups, county social services, and other community support groups all play a role in postvention response and support after a suicide death. Community agencies can have internal postvention policies and protocols and network with other community partners to integrate protocols as a part of any existing community or organization disaster response plan.
Postvention community resources
- Riverside Trauma Center Postvention Guidelines
- Action Alliance Framework for Successful Messaging
- Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide
- Supporting Survivors of Suicide Loss: A Guide for Funeral Directors
School settings K-12
- Preventing Suicide: A Toolkit for High Schools
- After a Suicide: A Toolkit for Schools
- Suicide Prevention Resource Center: Provide for Immediate and Long-term Postvention
- A Manager’s Guide to Suicide Postvention in the Workplace: 10 Action Steps for Dealing with the Aftermath of Suicide
- Suicide Prevention Competencies for Faith Leaders: Supporting Life Before, During and After a Suicidal Crisis
- After a Suicide: Recommendations for Religious Services and other Public Memorial Observances
- Faith Leaders Guide to Self-Care After a Suicide