Immediate Needs of People Bereaved by Suicide

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Witnessing the suicide or finding the body are disturbing enough and then the families have to deal with the official response involving police and emergency services. When you arrive you may find a doubly traumatised household, shocked by the loss and put out by the “official” response.

Few first responders at the death scene are there to help the family members after a suicide in the same way as the clergy. The family may need some help getting answers to claiming the body, recovering personal effects and possibly arranging a clean up of the scene. You may have to help them with these issues.

Some families may not want clergy to be there at this stage and it is important to respect this. In these circumstances you can offer information and signpost to other sources of support. Family members may choose to seek your support at some stage in the future.

In the first hours and days, people bereaved by suicide may need any or all of the following:

  • To see that what they are feeling is normal.
  • To understand they will need time to deal with their loss. They need to take things slowly and take care of themselves and their families.
  • To get support. Different things will work for different people but a good source of help is contact with others who have lost loved ones to suicide. This is available through suicide loss support groups (See Key Contacts and Resources Section).
  • To know what to say to any affected children. It is generally felt that children should hear the truth.
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