The loss of a loved one by suicide is often shocking, painful and unexpected. The stigma surrounding suicide can make it harder to talk about and the bereaved person may feel like they're being judged. There are a number of things you can do to support a colleague bereaved by suicide, and some that you should avoid.

For more information on how to talk to someone bereaved by suicide visit Conversations Matter.


  • Give them space and time without isolating them – invite them to lunch or coffee as you normally would, but don’t push things if they aren’t up for it yet.
  • Check in regularly and ask how they're going. Listen to the response and try to understand without wanting to 'fix' things.
  • Consider cultural differences. Differences in cultural background can affect how people respond to suicide as well as how they feel about sharing information and seeking help.
  • Treat them the same as you normally would – be yourself around them.
  • Avoid imposing time limits on the grieving process. Grief is a very personal process and differs between individuals, so check your expectations.

beyondblue has more information on how to support someone bereaved by suicide.


  • Be surprised at the intensity of the person’s feelings. They may be overwhelmed by intense feelings of grief, often when they least expect it and including at work. 
  • Overwhelm them with attention when they first come back – just saying ‘welcome back’ is enough.
  • Ask questions – if your colleague wants to talk about it with you, they will.

What should I say?

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 times 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 judgments about the person who died such as saying they were selfish, cowardly or weak, or even brave or strong. People need to come 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.

How could I help?

In this series of videos, people share their experience of losing a loved one, and how their colleagues and managers supported them. 


Tiana talks about going back to work following her best friend's suicide, as well as some tips for providing support.




Leigh returned to work soon after his dad took his own life. He reflects on what employers can do to help someone bereaved by suicide.


Emma shares some of the ways colleagues looked out for her, after her teenage son took his own life.




Courtney talks about how her HR manager supported her after losing her brother to suicide. Checking in and having a conversation can make a huge difference to the person grieving, helping them feel connected and supported. 

Additional guidance for managers

People cope with grief in different ways. For some, grief can be debilitating and the bereaved person may need time off work. Others may prefer to be at work as a way of coping with their grief.

It's important to understand that, at first, the bereaved person may be in a state of shock and overwhelmed by grief. In addition to sadness, reactions can include problems with concentration and memory, fatigue and loss of confidence. 

Discuss options with your employee about time off work and any changes in duties when they return, and come up with a plan together. Check in regularly to see how they are going. Listen to the response and try to understand.

Other things you can do include:

  • If the employee is receiving counselling, offer them time off for appointments.
  • Offer support for employees affected by suicide through flexible work hours or reduced hours when they initially come back to work.
  • You could ask the bereaved person how their grief is affecting them, what they would like their colleagues to be told in relation to the death, and what you and the wider business can do to support them. 
  • Provide information to all employees about suicide and bereavement. Inviting a counsellor to speak with staff can build confidence and understanding about offering support.


  • Ensure appropriate policies and procedures are developed and implemented. These should cover managing a crisis situation for an employee returning to work following a suicide attempt or losing someone to suicide.
  • Put up posters and information about where employees can go for support. This might be details of your organisation’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or the beyondblue Support Service.
  • For managers in workplaces where employees are exposed to suicide, acknowledge it when it happens – check in with them to ensure they are ok and direct them to where they can get support if needed.