8 Ways to Help Kids Cope with the Suicide of a Parent

When a Parent Dies from Suicide

It's not something we want to even have to think about.  Yet each year, thousands of children will become bereaved due to the suicide of a parent.  I have worked with my fair share of children who have grappled with this very topic, who are grasping for answers when there seemingly are none.  One thing is for certain, when we shroud a suicide in secrecy, and try to cover up the truth about the parent's death, we can prolong and intensify a child's grief, not make the road easier, as the hope may be. 

The Truth is Always Best

Clearly, when a suicide is completed, especially the suicide of a parent, our natural response is to protect and try to buffer the harsh blow of that reality.  That comes from a place of caring in our hearts.  The reality is, however, that when we try to couch the facts of the death in euphemisms and "cover ups", we complicate the grief of the child.  As with any other kind of death, the truth is always the best.

7 Ways to Help Kids Cope with the Suicide of a Parent

1.  Tell the Truth: Tell the truth in an age-appropriate manner.

2.  Details: You do not have to go into every detail.  Keep things simple.

3.  Explain: Explain suicide by first explaining death: Death means the body has stopped working.  When someone has suicided, it means they made their body stop working.

4. An Illness You Cannot See: When somebody makes their body stop working, they have a kind of illness in their brain that you cannot see.  They did not know that they could get help, or they were too sick to get help.  If we knew how sick dad/mom was we would have done whatever we could have to help keep him/her alive.

5. IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT.  There is nothing you or anyone else could have done to cause the suicide.  It is nobody's fault.  (Remind the child of this from time to time.  The younger the child, the more important it is to remind them.)

6. You Were Loved: Your mom/dad loved you very much.  Her/his illness was part of the reason she/he died.

7.  We Will Always Remember: We will keep the memory of mom/dad alive.  We might cry lots, and that is okay.  We can also laugh about some of our funny times together.  We will get through this together.

8.  You Will Be Cared For: There are lots of people who love you and are here for you.  I (the surviving parent) will be here for you and still love and take care of you.  I do everything I can to make sure I will be here for a long, long time.  It is also important to remind the child of all of the other realatives and friends in their life.  When one parent dies, the child may often think about losing the other parent and worry about what will happen to them.  It is important to acknowledge this and assure your child that he will always be cared for. 

In Suicide's Wake: Books that Help

After a Parent's Suicide: Helping Children Heal

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But I Didn't Say Goodbye
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Workbooks for Grieving Children

After a Suicide: A Workbook for Grieving Kids

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Our very own workbook: How Long Does the Sad Last?

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Thanks for your straight forward tips!
Thank you for stopping by and dropping us a line!

Wendy =)

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