How to support a friend who lost someone to suicide
You may not feel comfortable having a conversation with your friend about suicide bereavement, but you can still support them in other ways.
Written by spunout
Fact checked by experts and reviewed by young people.
If a friend of yours has lost someone in their life to suicide, it can be difficult to know what to do. Grief can be painful, unpredictable and overwhelming at times, so it can be upsetting and frightening to watch someone you care about go through a grief journey. While you may want to make them feel better, you might not feel comfortable talking to them about their grief, and that’s ok.
If your friend wants to have a conversation about their loss but you don’t feel like you can support them in that way, you can let them know that it’s good that they want to talk and help them find another person in their life who they trust to open up to. This doesn’t mean that you can’t support your friend, as there are other ways to help them through their grief other than talking. This article covers some things you can do to support a friend who has lost someone to suicide.
Build your understanding of suicide bereavement
Grief is a personal process, and each person’s experience of grief is unique. Losing someone to suicide can take an emotional and physical toll, and it can be difficult to understand some of the reactions people have to grief, especially if you haven’t experienced it yourself.
If someone in your life has been bereaved by suicide, you can support them by learning more about how suicide grief can impact people. Here are some articles that you may find helpful:
- How can losing someone to suicide affect you?
- Why do people sometimes feel guilty or angry after a suicide?
- How to find support if you have been bereaved by suicide
- How to cope with losing someone to suicide
The HSE’s mental health information website, YourMentalHealth.ie has helpful articles that can help you understand suicide bereavement.
HUGG is an Irish suicide bereavement charity. Their website, hugg.ie, contains a range of helpful resources on suicide bereavement.
- The road ahead: A guide to dealing with the impact of suicide
- National Suicide Bereavement Support Guide
Other ways of supporting a friend following a suicide
If your friend doesn’t want to talk about their grief, or if you don’t feel comfortable having that conversation with them, there are other ways you can support them. Here are some examples.
- Attending the funeral or memorial service: This gesture can show your friend that you are there for them and can make them feel cared for.
- Checking in on them: Grief doesn’t stop after the funeral, so setting time aside to check in with your friend in the weeks and months following their loss is important. Even a quick message to say you hope they’re ok and you’re there for them can make a big difference.
- Remember key dates like birthdays, holidays and anniversaries: Dates like these can be particularly difficult, and checking in to see if they would like to do something or have some company on those days can make them a little easier.
- Offer practical support: When someone is grieving, completing simple practical tasks can be difficult. Consider offering to help with things like shopping, cleaning, getting meals, or making phone calls.
- Spend quality time: Sometimes the best way to support someone going through grief is to spend time with them doing things you both enjoy. Doing simple things like watching tv together, going for a walk, going to the cinema or out to a cafe can be a welcome distraction.
Caring for yourself
Providing support to someone else can be draining. It is important to mind yourself and be aware of your own mental wellbeing. Talking to someone about how you are feeling can help. You should be realistic about what support you can offer and try not to take on more than you have the capacity to take on. Do what you can to help, and reach out to others who can support your friend such as family members, mental health professionals, teachers or other trusted friends.
If you also knew the person who died by suicide, you may be experiencing your own grief, and it might not be the right time for you to offer support to your friend. If this is the case, you can let them know you care for them and want to help but don’t feel like you’re able to give them the kind of support they deserve at this time. Validate them for reaching out and talking about their grief and encourage them to share their feelings with someone else. You may be able to support them to identify another safe person in their life who they could share their feelings with.
What if my friend is having thoughts of suicide?
When someone experiences the trauma of losing someone to suicide, it can cause them to experience their own suicidal thoughts. If you are concerned that your friend is having thoughts of suicide, it’s important that they access the help and support they need. Our article on what to do if someone tells you they are thinking of suicide can help. There are things you can do to support your friend if they are having thoughts of suicide, but you shouldn’t try to support them alone. There are a range of support services across Ireland that help people who are thinking of suicide.
Feeling overwhelmed and want to talk to someone?
- Get anonymous support 24/7 with our text message support service
- Connect with a trained volunteer who will listen to you, and help you to move forward feeling better
- Free-text SPUNOUT to 50808 to begin
- Find out more about our text message support service
If you are a customer of the 48 or An Post network or cannot get through using the ‘50808’ short code please text HELLO to 086 1800 280 (standard message rates may apply). Some smaller networks do not support short codes like ‘50808’.