Where To Begin When Trying To Help Young People Cope With Suicide
Death by suicide is always a tragic event. It can trigger a host of complicated and confusing emotions. Whether you are coping with the loss of a loved one, or are helping a child or adult navigate such a loss, these tools can help.
Help yourself first.
It’s important to make sure you are emotionally okay before talking to children. Pause to reflect on and manage your own emotions so you can speak calmly to the child or children in your life.
Tell them the truth.
Don’t hide the truth, and feel free to talk openly about what happened. However, use age-appropriate language to discuss death with children.
Assist with identifying feelings
Help the child put names to her emotions: “It sounds like you’re angry,” or “I hear you blaming yourself, but this is not your fault.” Acknowledge and normalize the child’s feelings. Share your own feelings, too, explaining that while each person’s feelings are different, it’s okay to experience a range of emotions.
Don’t gossip or speculate about the reasons for the suicide. Instead, when talking to a child or teen, emphasize that the person who died was struggling and thinking differently from most people.
Tailor your support.
Everyone grieves at his or her own pace and in his or her own way. Respect their privacy, but always let people know you are available. Other children might want someone to talk to more often. Still, others prefer to process their feelings through art or music.
Extend the conversation.
Use this opportunity to reach out to others who might be suffering. Ask children: How can you and your peers help support each other? Who else can you reach out to for help?
Parents, teachers, school administrators and other adults in a child’s life often feel unprepared to help a young person cope with a death by suicide. Typically, schools will have additional resources available. Encourage children to reach out to these people as well. Professional help is also recommended when a child experiences the loss of someone close to them.
Walk In Sunshine is a charity the focuses on online resources for families who lose a child. We plan to continue to post articles addressing all types of child loss. We will also donate $1,000 to the final arrangements of any child loss in Union County from 20 weeks gestation until the child turns 18.
Our website is www.walkinsunshinecharity.org