A member of my community took his life. It was a sudden and traumatic loss and while some people treated his widow with kindness, she shared that she was unprepared for the hurtful actions of others. For example, she saw a friend walking towards her one morning in our small town. The friend saw her too and she quickly crossed the street to avoid her. A colleague also shared a hurtful experience following the suicide of her physician brother. Though she was a child, she vividly remembers the sound of her neighbor’s footsteps as she crossed their wooden porch. When her mother answered the loud knock, the neighbor asked, “Jean, how’d he do it?”

It’s shocking to hear that someone has taken their life but even more shocking to learn that people do not give the bereaved the same support they give for other deaths. Why should we shy away from someone who is grieving just because their loved one took their life? As one widow states, “My husband was a good man and lived a good life; he just chose to end it badly.”

When you learn that someone has died and the cause of death is suicide, please do the same things that you would do to comfort and support the bereaved. They’ll need your support now and for a long time to come. It’s just the right thing to do.

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 available in three individual volumes: "Illness & Death," "Suicide" and "Miscarriage." Additional titles are available as e-books: "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 StoreClick here to order.

 



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Tags: acquaintance, colleague, how to help, hurtful things people say or do after a death, loss of a child, suicide, suicide loss survivors, supporting the bereaved, sympathy & support, what not to say, More…what to say

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Comment by MY JOHNS PAGE on May 25, 2012 at 9:28am

HI, MY SON HUNG HIMSELF. HE IS 31 YEARS OLD. HE LEFT A WIFE AND THREE BEAUTIFUL KIDS. I AM HAVING A HARD TIME DEALING WITH IT.I WANT TO BE STRONG FOR MY GRANDBABIES,BUT I CANT.I FEEL LIKE I AM DYING INSIDE. I WANT TO SLEEP ALL THE TIME. I WANT TO DREAM ABOUT HIM, BUT I HAVENT YET. I KNOW THE FAMILY NEEDS SOME COUNSELING,BUT I JUST HAVENT WANTED TO DO ANY RESEARCH.I KNOW I AM GOING TO COMPASSIONATE FRIENDS, BUT I HAVE TO FIND SOMETHING FOR MY DAUGHTER IN LAW AND GRANDBABIES. ANY ONE HAVE ANY IDEAS FOR ME..I HAVE SO MUCH ANGER INSIDE. PLEASE HELP ME... MISSING MY SON

Comment by Janie Bailey on April 27, 2012 at 3:12am

 Hello my Brother hung his self on a\April 17 of 2012. It is still so new.Like so many my brother was my favorite baby doll. I was 2 when he was born. My family have all the questions and none of the answers. The only thing that we can come up with is. By the time he was 40  he had buried two wives. were diabetic and both had kidney transplants. He got married a third time and that ended in divorce.

  Well he said that he would try it one more time, and she is 20 years his jr. not saying that is is her fault or anything but they were having problems both financial and personal she told himshe was going to go to the lawyer and file for a divorce. he was driving a truck over the road. He step out of the truck and hung him self on the headache rack.

   I am the only girl out of 6 and the oldest  he use to call me and ask for my advise. But Tuesday night  I guess he had just had enough. Now Saturday we are having the memorial, I am mad, hurt, and I really wish that I could hold him and cry with him. Why could he not call one of us it didn't have to be me just one of us. We were so close and we never thought he would do this. 

Comment by Alanna Bellflower on August 6, 2011 at 3:28pm
April 18th my son in law took his life in the family home. My daughter immediately received help from family and friends as well as was set up for councelling for her and the 3 children ranging from ages 19-14. Quite suddenly some of us-closest to her (mother and sister) were railed at and criticized for 'not being able to help her', not having done enough (or having done things 'wrong'- like fixing her pool), maybe we didn't unload a dishwasher, left something on the kitchen counter, didn't bring them food (both frigs were FULL from the generousity of neighbors and friends)didn't MAKE her eat! The list goes on. The said sister was the first she called;aside from 911 to tell of this tragedy. These failings of ours were posted on facebook and emails were forwarded to other members of the family. She even attacked verbaly siblings of her husband. I am baffled at her actions. 3 yrs ago I lost my spouse to cancer and just lately began to feel I was entering a new 'normal' for myself. I had a brief period of anger at my loss,but nothing like this! When things don't go her way or timely according to her schedule she is irate and resorts to emotional manipulation ( her oldest son searched out a article on this and said this is mom to a 't')Personally I feel it's repressed guilt as being her mom she often complained about him to me, up until very recently to his suicide. I'm sure she confided events and complaints to her sister too. She is lavish with praise for her 'many many friends' as tho that would hurt us. We thank God for these people who apparently CAN help her. Does anyone have a similar experience with anything like this? She won't talk privately with us, prefering to email or facebook so she can publicly air personal things. We have found this untolerable and blocked this thou it has broken our hearts to do so. What is going on?
Comment by Robbie Miller Kaplan on September 6, 2010 at 7:57am
Dear Susan,
My deepest condolences on the loss of your dear friend. It's important to have support while grieving your loss. You might want to look at online support groups for suicide survivors or do an online search for groups that you can partipate with in your hometown.
Best regards,
Robbie
Comment by Susan on August 23, 2010 at 10:43am
My best friend of 30 years and subsequent roomate commited suicide jan/2010 in the basement of our house. She couldn't cope with how her life was playing out. Her family, in another state, loved me until this happened. Now they blame me for her death. This hurts me so much. My daughter, 14, was home at the time and hears how Im now to blame. Thank goodness she understands what suicide is in all ways. I wish they realized no one is to blame. It was a sole decision on her part. Im greiving every day for the loss of my buddy, and have no support.
Comment by Haunani on August 6, 2010 at 3:13pm
Its unfortunate at a time of great sorrow the greatest sorrow that people especially religious people can be so unkind. I've heard the dumbest things or quotes from the bible. I don't think a bereaved one wants to hear such quotes if its not upbuilding don't say anything at all. Just say sorry for your loss. Be empathetic people can be so cruel and hurtful especially if they have never been thru such pain. Or they expect you to be over it since a year has passed. Until you say to them well if you lost your child i'm sure you can get over it and they look at you with a shocked look. Thats when it hits them. People are so cruel. I will mourn the loss of my son for as long as i wish. He would have been 31 today. I ignore what people say and live my life the way i see fit until they have gone thru what we have their talking from their behind. But i do understand that people avoid us because they really don't know what to say and they don't want us to feel pain. Hang in there everyone take each day as it comes its hard to understand why? I'm probably still in denial.
Comment by Janice Spring on July 26, 2010 at 7:35pm
Aimee, my son pictured here died of an accidental prescription drug overdose. It is the leading cause of death for our young people here in my community. His death shocked everyone because he was a good, sweet kid, and very popular. Many of his friends have spiraled out of control since his death (on 9/13/08). I have been fortunate to speak with some of them who share feelings of guilt on many different levels. Here's what I say to them: If Derek were here right now, what would he be doing? And every one of them give me the same answer, "Trying to make me laugh". I tell them to remember that. Remember what he would want for you, which I am sure is for you to be happy. I think it would be good for you to write a note to the family and tell them you share their grief and tell them how you will miss him. Boyfriends and girlfriends break up and grown ups know this, they will not blame you. They need to hear from others who loved him and will miss them. Tell them you will remember all the good. I cannot tell you if you should go in person or not, let your instincts guide you for what would be best but I can tell you I appreciated every single person who came to my son's memorial service.
Comment by Karen Arcotta on June 18, 2010 at 2:07am
I am suffering so badly at the loss of my sister. I was more like a mother to my sister. We went everywhere and did everything together. She was my best friend in all the world. I miss her sOOOOOOOOOOO much I can't even tell you. I feel like there's a hole in my heart the size of a basketball. She called me on the night of her death and I didn't see it coming. I'm a physician and I should've known by the signs she was exhibiting. She was suddenly giving everything she had that was dear to her. I didn't see it. She sent me a Mother's Day card 2 weeks early and she said she didn't want to forget. All the while, she knew she wasn't going to be there. She had tried suicide a number of times using drugs, cutting her wrists but she ended up hanging herself to be sure it would work. I can't recover from this loss. It is killing me. How do you go on after you lose your sister? I don't think you can.
Comment by lane on June 2, 2010 at 6:17pm
my son shawn died march 06 2005.he shot himself in my back yard. he was 21 yrs old.it was the worse pain i have ever been though.i was shocked and so very sad.i think of him everyday.i miss him so much. i feel so sorry for anyone who has lost a child there is no other pain in the world like losing a child..
Comment by Aimee on May 3, 2010 at 11:35am
i received a text message last week to say that my ex boyfriend of late had passed away in his sleep, i later learnt it was due to a sleeping tablets overdose.
i am still unsure of if this was by mistake or suicide as his family have not yet revealed the cause of death.
when i first received the text i instantly broke down reading it, i was in denial i call his phone only to find it switched off. i then rang his house phone & his brother then confirmed the new was true and said he would be in contact about funeral arrangements.
As the days go by i mourn his death more and more, not an hour passes where i dont find my eyes fill with tears or my heart skip beat at the thought of him not being only a phone call away.
Our relationship ended badly if you can say it ended at all, i was his first real girlfriends and at the young age of 24 i never expected our hurtful words or emotional arguments to be the last of our conversations.
i have guilt and pain like never before, i to was suicidal only 2 months ago and i know our brake up was tough on both of us.
My close friends and some of his closest friends are very supportive but there are many of his social mates that didnt know me directly and who only heard of the times we fort and the times i brought pain to his life. As we all do vent and complain about loved ones im sure he painted some horrible images in there minds of our relationship at times but i am shocked to receive warnings of there offence to me writing on his facebook tribute memory wall and wanting to attend his funeral.
ive had them send me emails stating harm will come to me if i attend his funeral and i am unsure if its rude to contact his parents directly when his brother stated they want time alone and he would be in contact.
im lost for word to even express to his parents how much i miss him and how sorry i am. i dont think they know there son was in a state of depression prior to our relationship and taking drugs on a regular basis. i know they must be hurting but i am too and i wish this would be a time were we all supported each other and remembered the good not the bad.
im sure they fort with him to and we all say things we dont mean but only 6 weeks ago he text me and stated he still had love for me.
im so lost i dont know right from wrong in this situation do i call, dotn i call, do i attend, dont i attend, do i do what they want or what i think he would have wanted? or what i want? do i worry about myself and my healing or do i try be accepting of there requests? what do i do in a time like this when nothing in life prepares you for such a loss let alone people to point the finger at you the most recent person to have brought him love, happiness, joy and hope all to be forgotten cause of the bad times which came hand in hand.
;-(

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