Helping Someone Else

Supporting someone who’s bereaved by suicide can be very challenging. It is normal to feel like you don’t know do to say or do in such a devastating situation. But being there and being supportive is invaluable to someone going through the grief process after suicide.

What to expect

  • Anger – towards the person who died, towards themselves or towards others
  • Defensiveness – due to the uncertainty of how people will react, fearing judgement
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Despair – feeling unable to live without the person who died
  • Disbelief – that the event has happened
  • Fear – afraid for the changes to their life
  • Guilt – that they couldn’t save/help the person who died
  • Numbness – as it can take a while for the pain to break through
  • Physical reactions
  • Questioning – ‘why?’ and ‘what if?’
  • Rejection – from the person who died and/or the community
  • Relief– if the person has been in pain for an extended period of time
  • Sadness
  • Searching – wanting to go to the places the deceased went or believing they have seen the person
  • Sense of acceptance – they may feel they can accept the person’s wish to die
  • Shame – feeling they have done something wrong or because of the stigma attached to suicide
  • Shock
  • Stigma
  • Strong– feeling as if they have lost the ability to do normal tasks and feeling detached
  • Suicidal thoughts

Look out for

Sometimes a grieving person needs professional help because their grief is affecting their own wellbeing. Here are some of the warning signs that some needs professional support:

Depression or anxiety – due to the intensity of grief

Suicidal thoughts – because of guilt

Taking more risks – as they don’t see the point in life or care about their wellbeing

Excessive use of alcohol and using drugs – this is done to try and blot out the pain

If are unsure, it is safer to seek a professional opinion. They may refuse to seek help because of various reasons but don’t try to force them – this can do more harm than good.

How to help

There are many ways in which you can support people who have been bereaved and what help is required completely depends on the person and their response to the bereavement. Following is a few ideas about ways you can support someone.

To support them emotionally it is helpful to encourage them to:

  • Express their feelings and thoughts through talking or writing
  • Make opportunities to remember and mark the life of their loved one through talking, looking at photos or creating a memorial
  • Continue to do things they enjoyed
  • Make sure they are looking after themselves
  • Spend time outside
  • Have contact with others who have been bereaved, possibly through support groups
  • Make an ‘emotional first aid kit’ to help them deal with negative feelings

The bereaved can be overwhelmed with the practical tasks involved with dealing with a death so this is a key area of support. You could:

  • Help them keep on top of maintenance such as cooking, shopping and cleaning
  • Accompany them to appointments to do with the coroner’s investigation
  • Support with arrangements for the funeral
  • Help them keep on top of tasks like life insurance and registering the death

Don’t overwhelm yourself

It is okay to feel like you are doing things wrong or are not doing enough. There is no right way to help someone dealing with grief. It completely depends on the person and situation. Remember that you cannot take away their pain and it is not your fault if they are not coping. Make sure to look after yourself as well, so you are not over whelmed or under too much pressure. Seeking help from others is completely acceptable.


Written by Rebecca Clark

SASP is a programme hosted by Samaritans, registered charity number 219432 and SC040604. Copyright Samaritans © 2020