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How to Help Support Grieving Youth, After the Suicide of a Friend or a Family Member

Grieving is a natural reaction to a death or other significant loss. Grief over the loss of a loved one is a process that is incorporated into the lives of survivors, forever changing their lives. The suicide of a friend or classmate can cause a special form of grief for children and teens. Children and teens will need your help - provide them with information, understanding and comfort.

The grief reaction to suicide typically includes expression of shock, disbelief, denial, anger, guilt and shame. Different children express their reactions to a crisis differently. Children and teens may show anger, get upset easily, want to talk, or withdraw to make sense of it themselves. Younger children may be more open about their feelings than older children and teens.

It's important to listen to children and teens. Encourage them to talk about their feelings and concerns. Listening helps promote their healing and growth. Reassure them they were not to blame. Encourage them to remember the person who died and be clear that it is OK to talk about them and have special memories. Your attention demonstrates respect.

When talking to children about suicide, be clear that suicide is never a solution to any problem. Follow normal household routines as much as is possible. This can provide a sense of comfort and safety to a grieving child.

Understand that memorials can be very comforting (e.g. writing a poem, song or letter; attending a service; making a scrapbook; buying a bouquet.)

Avoid minimizing the loss, making moralistic statements about the person who died, setting time limits on your child's grieving process and giving lots of advice.

Pay attention to changes in your child's behavior being especially attentive to suicide warning signs.

Compiled from: Maine Youth Suicide Prevention Guidelines.