How to help after a suicide death
Remember, despite the headlines, suicide deaths are numerically small and the grief from this form of death is different, however, I know, and so do many, many others, it is possible to survive the pain.
Here are a few suggestions learnt from my own pain and the experience of others’ when I was involved with the Canterbury Bereaved by Suicide Society:
* Do let us talk – mostly we don’t want your advice, just your ears – we need to voice what's going on in our head.
* Do respond honestly to our questions about the death.
* Don't remove tasks, responsibilities, or other actions, unless we ask you to. Tidying our daughter’s room; sorting our husband’s clothes, or a father’s office; although painful, these actions are often valued tasks that help us work through the pain. Just because it hurts doesn’t mean we don't want to do these jobs. We may just want to do it later: when we are ready.
* Don't tell us it's not our fault; that it's XYZ's fault; that it’s God’s will; and that we'll find a meaning to this in time, or any other conclusion you may have: ours may be different. Your deductions may be true but we have to work through a process to arrive at our own answers. Each of us will grieve in our own way and come to our own solutions.
* Don't tell us that you know how we feel – you don't, even if you too had someone die by suicide.
* Try not to let your own sense of helplessness stop you reaching out to us. Some of the most helpful support I got was from people who said; ‘I don't know what to say’. I knew they were speaking from the heart.
* Do allow us our own feelings: we will be working through anger, disbelief, hate, love, blame and every other human emotion there is. We won't be doing it in a nice neat list like many grief books suggest. It will be more like the tin of emotional worms I spoke of earlier – each one wriggling, and working their way from the top to the bottom then back up to the top, again, and again, and again.
* Don't tell us what you would do, or how you would feel if you were us – you aren't us.
* Remember our grief will not be over in six weeks or six months. We have at least a year of working through the initial, intense, pain, the funeral, the inquest, then the first Christmas, the first birthday, and the first anniversary of the death, the funeral and every other important time that we shared with our loved one.
Extract from Surviving Suicide: a mother’s story
April 2012. ISBN 978-0-473-20510-2 available in paperback and for e-readers - AMAZON