When someone you know loses a loved one, it’s often hard to know the right thing to say. When the death is the result of a suicide, it can be even more complicated.
There’s a social stigma attached to suicide that makes it uncomfortable to talk about. You may want to reach out but don’t know how to do so without causing more pain. The simple truth is this: People who are grieving need support, no matter what the cause of death.
You may not know the right thing to say, and that’s OK. The important thing is to say something to let the person know you care.
- Saying, “I’m so sorry for your loss and I don’t know what to say” is still meaningful. The important thing is to reach out and offer your support.
- Sometimes the best thing is to ask, “How are you doing?” Of course, your friend is probably not doing well, but opening a dialogue that allows for the expression of grief is a kind gesture.
- Offer support without judgment. Don’t qualify the person who died as selfish or weak, or even brave and strong. Let your friend know you are there to provide support while giving them space to process the experience and come to an understanding of what has happened. Avoid saying “committed suicide” because it implies wrongdoing. It’s better to say “died by suicide.”
- Share happy memories of the person who has died. Don’t shy away from acknowledging the topic of suicide, but remember that this final act is not what defines the person. Tell funny stories, talk about the wonderful things that made this person unique, and reminisce about happier times. Let your friend know you have not forgotten who this beloved person really was.
The most important thing is to listen more than you talk. Avoid saying “he’s in a better place” or “I know how you feel.” Instead, give your friend the opportunity to share feelings and tell the story as many times as necessary.
A final piece of advice: Don’t forget. Use the name of the person who died to let your friend know you haven’t forgotten. Don’t forget your friend, either, after the funeral is over. Sometimes after the initial crush of well-wishers, the grieving person feels isolated. It can be difficult to ask for help, so don’t wait for your friend to call. Instead, reach out with a note or call and ask what you can do.
Grief is unique to each individual, but for many people, healing begins at the funeral service. At Valley of the Temples, we understand the importance of remembering someone who has died and honoring the life that was lived. Call us at (808) 725-2798 to learn how we can help you plan a meaningful service that honors the life of your loved one.