It's ok to feel awkward or uncomfortable talking about suicide, but try not to let this stop you showing support and offering assistance. Be truthful, honest and aware of your limitations: acknowledge if you don't understand or know how to react to what they're going through.
Some of the common language used to talk about suicide can be unhelpful. Here are some tips on how to approach the conversation:
- Try not to say 'committed' suicide - this language harks back to time when suicide was a crime and a mortal sin. Some bereaved people find it distressing and stigmatising. 'Died by suicide', 'suicided', or 'took their life' are more neutral terms.
- Don't use clichés or platitudes to try and comfort the person. Statements like "you're so strong", "time will heal", "he's at peace now", "you have other children", "you'll get married again" or "I know how you feel", while well-intentioned, rarely help. They can leave the bereaved person feeling misunderstood and more isolated.
- Avoid judgements about the person who died, such as saying they were selfish, cowardly or weak, or even brave or strong. People need to come to their own understanding about what has happened.
- Avoid simplistic explanations for the suicide. Suicide is very complex and there are usually many contributing factors.