Talking to Students
We have put together some information and suggestions to help schools who have been affected by a suicidal death in their school community. We hope we can help you with the unique issues and experiences of those bereaved by suicide, and guide you through such a difficult time. Remember anyone affected – including you – may need some extra support.
Why is death by suicide different?
- The grief is often far more intense, and there is often a lack of ‘closure’
- People bereaved may look for ‘answers’ and try to find reasons the person took their life
- Some people may feel there is a stigma associated with death by suicide
- The bereaved are more likely to become socially isolated
- Sometimes, people may feel responsible in some way for the person’s death. For example, if a student took their life and were bullied at school
- People may feel guilt associated with not anticipating or preventing the suicide
How can suicide bereavement affect children’s behaviour?
Helping your students understand what has happened
- Don’t put a time limit on the process of grieving. Be available some time after the initial shock of the death
- Sit quietly with your students and listen while he/she talks, cries or is silent
- Talk about the person who has died (if you can) in a sensitive and positive way
- Consider doing an activity with the students to remember/honour the person’s life, such as a memorial, or making a photo wall
- Make opportunities for students to talk to each other, look at photos or share stories
- Maintain a routine as much as possible. Routines can provide essential stability
- Acknowledge and believe the young person’s pain and distress whatever the loss
- Don’t panic in the absence or presence of strong emotional responses
- Be consistent, honest and reassuring. Talking about suicide in the correct way normalises the situation
- Be careful not to talk about the method a person may have taken their life
- Be aware of the effect of special occasions that may be hard for your student, e.g. Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Christmas, Easter, holidays
- Be aware of your own grief and/or feeling of helplessness
- Reassure the person that grief is a normal response to loss and there is no wrong or right way to grieve