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Simple Sympathy

Sympathy for Suicide: Expressing Sympathy to the Family of a Suicide Victim

in Sympathy Q&A

Nancy from Florida has a question about expressing sympathy to suicide survivors.

 

Do you send condolences to the family of a person who committed suicide?

Dear Nancy,

Yes, suicide survivors definitely need support and expressions of sympathy during their time of need. Unfortunately it is common for suicide survivors to receive very little support from friends and family. People just do not know what to do and often avoid the bereaved. To make matters worse, the stigma associated with suicide usually creates complicated grief.
So, an another important questions is:
What is an appropriate expression of sympathy for this kind of situation?

I know many common expressions of sympathy, such as flowers, cards and gifts seem completely trivial in such a tragic situation, but we have to remember that even simple expressions of sympathy really can make a difference.

I would recommend sending a hand-written card. It does not need to say much. There are some ideas for sympathy card wording below.

The wording is important in such a delicate situation. You do NOT want to insinuate anything that could cause more grief. Do NOT even imply that someone could have prevented such a tragedy, or that anybody is to blame.

Here are some ideas of what to say:

“This is a tragedy, I am so sorry for your pain.”

“Your loved one didn’t do this to hurt you.”

“It was not because of something you did or didn’t do.” (especially important with children)

“I can’t imagine the heartache you must feel.”
“My heart goes out to you.”

“Words seem inadequate to express the sadness I feel.”
What not to say:

  •  “He is better off now.”
  • “She couldn’t handle life.”
  •  “Somebody should have seen this coming.”

There are many more sympathy phrases that can be hurtful to the bereaved, go here for a more complete list of phrases to avoid for any kind of death.

I think one of the most important things you can convey to a suicide survivor is that anything they are feeling is completely valid and okay. If they are angry, bitter, hurt, etc…that is completely understandable.

You can also find out more about expressing sympathy for suicide and a list of resources for suicide survivors on this page.
I hope this helps.
Best Wishes,