How You Can Help Survivors

The loss of a loved one to suicide is devastating.  As a concerned family member, friend, colleague, or community member, you may be wondering if you should reach out and if so, what you should do.  The following information from the American Association of Suicidology may be helpful.

Helping Survivors of Suicide: What Can You Do?

The loss of a loved one by suicide is often shocking, painful and unexpected. The grief that ensues can be intense, complex and long term. Grief and bereavement are individual and unique processes. The following are common emotions associated with the grieving process: shock, denial, pain, numbness, anger, shame, despair, disbelief, depression, stress, sadness, guilt, rejection, loneliness, abandonment, and anxiety.  The single most important and helpful thing you can do as a friend is to listen. Actively listen, without judgment, criticism, or prejudice to what the survivor is telling you.
Because of the stigma surrounding suicide, survivors are often hesitant to openly share their story and express their feelings. In order to help, you must overcome any preconceptions you have about suicide and the suicide victim. This is best accomplished by educating yourself about suicide. While you may feel uncomfortable discussing suicide and its aftermath, survivors are in great pain and are in need of your compassion. Ask the survivor if and how you can help. H/she may not be ready to share and may want to grieve privately before accepting help.  Let him/her talk at his/her own pace and when ready.  Be patient. Repetition is a part of healing, so you may hear the same story multiple times. Use the loved one’s name instead of ‘he’ or ‘she’. This humanizes the decedent; the use of the name of the person who died will be comforting.

You may not know what to say and that is okay. Your presence and unconditional listening is what a survivor needs.  You cannot lead someone through his or her grief. The journey is personal and unique. Do not tell survivors how they should act, what they should feel, or that they should feel better “by now”. Avoid statements like “I know how you feel;” unless you are a survivor, you can only empathize with their feelings.

If you know a child, teen, or adult who has experienced the death of someone close to them and you would like to help, the following resources can guide you:
This is the website for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.  Click on Surviving Suicide Loss, then Coping with Suicide Loss, then helping Friends and Family.
The Dougy Center for Grieving Children & Families provides information for helping teens and children who are coping with the death of a loved one.  Their book Helping Teens Cope with Death is an excellent resource and can be purchased from
The Children’s Room Center for Grieving Children and Teenagers provides bereavement support for children, teens, young adults and families.  It is located in Arlington, MA. This program is related to the Dougy Center,


Hurting yourself is NEVER the answer. There is help available…talk to someone now

For immediate help call

Riverside Emergency Services

Newton Wellesley Hospital

Samariteen Hotline
1-800-252-TEEN (8336)

Samaritan Helpline
1-877-870-HOPE (4673)

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1-800-273-TALK (8255)