If it sounds too difficult to express sympathy for suicide, you need to read this.
I’ve been surprised to learn how many suicide survivors experience additional pain as a result of the reactions and comments of people around them.
Offering comforting words of sympathy for a tragic loss doesn’t have to be overwhelming. I’ll share the basics with you and provide resources where you can find more information.
A death by suicide is more complicated than other losses for many reasons, such as:
- People’s reactions and the stigma of suicide
- Feelings of shame and guilt
- A sense of rejection
- Strong feelings of anger towards the deceased
Survivors may be on a quest to figure out why the suicide happened and deeply hurt that their loved one choose to leave them.
They may blame themselves somehow and be unable to stop dwelling on thoughts of “what if I had done something differently.”
Anger is a common emotion of grief. For individuals bereaved by suicide it may be the strongest emotion they feel. They may feel more anger than sorrow. They may say, “How dare he do this to us.” Suicide survivors need the support and understanding of people around them.
Helping Individuals Bereaved by Suicide
It is claimed that for every suicide, six people are left suffering intense grief. Parents, children, spouses, siblings, co-workers and friends are all deeply affected by such a loss. Many people around them will not know how to respond to there pain and grief.
Here are some suggestions:
- Don’t be afraid to mention the departed loved one’s name.
- Give the bereaved the opportunity to share their feelings or talking about the deceased.
- Give them opportunities to discuss the death
- Be comfortable with strong emotions, even anger.
- Offer assurance
Suicide is not triggered by one event caused by one person. It is the culmination of many events and difficult circumstances. Suicide is the result of complicated emotions and pain or in some cases clinical depression.
Survivors of Bereaved by Suicide is an organization that you may want to recommend or look at yourself for more information about suicide support.
Words of Sympathy for Suicide
The terms “committed suicide” or “killed themselves” add to the stigma society has about suicide and have been known to cause additional grief to the survivors of suicide victims.
It is becoming more common to use the terms “died by suicide” and “bereaved by suicide.” Suicide is often the result of deep emotional turmoil and suffering and/or clinical depression that can limit a person’s ability to make a better choice.
What to say:
- “This is a tragedy, I am so sorry for your pain.”
- “Do you want to talk about it?”
- “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)
- “They were in a place of very deep emotional pain and confusion.”
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.
Additional Resources for Suicide Survivors
Road2Healing.com has resources and ideas for helping children bereaved by suicide and also printouts, poetry and helpful articles.
SurvivorsofSuicide.com has articles and poetry written by survivors.