It happened again in my community. A young man died by suicide. No matter how many times it happens, suicide is a sudden, unexpected, and tragic death that leaves the bereaved and the community badly shaken.
The bereaved not only feel the raw grief of sudden loss, but may wrestle with the question, over and over again, “Wasn’t there something I could have done to prevent this?” As one clergy member shares, “It is as unexplainable as a bolt of lightning; more actually, because we all know how to stay safe during a storm.”
Suicide carries a stigma along with mental illness. It is important to keep in mind that mental illness is a disease; a chronic, cruel, and invisible disease that leaves family members isolated and lonely.
What can you do to help? Treat the death and the bereaved with compassion, as you would for any death. Suicide is a cause of death and not a source of shame. Your expressions of grief should mirror those you share for any other death.
What to say:
What not to say:
One of the most important things you can do for anyone experiencing a loss is to listen. The bereaved will need to tell their story over and over again to make sense of it. This is an experience that they may not get over, but in time, their feelings will stabilize. Stay the course; you’ll be glad you did.
Robbie Miller Kaplan is an author who writes from a unique perspective as a mother who has lost two children. She has written How to Say It When You Don't Know What to Say, a guide to help readers communicate effectively when those they care about experience loss, now at a reduced price for e-books for "Illness & Death," "Suicide," "Miscarriage," "Death of a Child," "Death of a Stillborn or Newborn Baby," "Pet Loss," "Caregiver Responsibilities," "Divorce" and "Job Loss." All titles are in Amazon's Kindle Store.