Recently, I had a conversation with a few other people who had lost someone they loved to suicide.
I was left with this burning question: What is the right way to talk to someone about their suicide loss?
It’s a really hard question because everyone is so different.
After all, suicide is actually common, but talking about it, isn’t.
We spoke about the way that people talk to us when the inevitable “OMG you lost XYZ to suicide, that’s so sad, you’re so brave, they’d be so proud”, pops up in conversation, or some variant of this.
Many people are so loving and kind, with only good intentions, but it begged the question, some of the ways people talk to me about my suicide loss doesn’t sit right.
No matter how we lose someone we love, we will all respond differently and we will need different things to cope with the grief. This is important to remember.
I think the most important step, is to understand someone before commenting on their grief; even if you have good intentions.
When people hear that my father took his life, and now I am advocating for mental health, I seem to have “You’re so brave” thrown at me from all angles, and it is so kind… BUT..
People look at me like I am this ‘hero’ or someone special, and I’m not, I’m just trying to make the best out of a really bad situation.
The thing is, why am I so brave because I lost someone? It baffles me.
It makes me feel like my fathers suicide is becoming about me, which I do not want it to. My dad was the one that was brave, for holding on for 49 years.
Which brings us onto the next step, you need to really bloody listen and take your time to take in the information, very similar to understanding.
The thing is, and bringing us onto the third step, is that you don’t always need to comment.
I certainly don’t need any form of attention when I talk about my dad, I am at peace with it.
I can’t change what happened, and I just want to make changes, rather than gain sympathy.
Something that’s also important to consider is not to overly associate the person with their suicide loss.
I somehow became “the girl who’s father killed himself” rather than the Charlotte that everyone knew. It’s almost like it became an identity.
Most importantly, please don’t pry or ask for details of the suicide.
So often, people will ask me how my dad did it, when, or why. It’s not appropriate and it can bring back images that they do not want; if they want to talk about it with you, they will.
So what is the real kicker? That number one tip to talk to someone, maybe a friend, after they have lost someone to suicide.
Treat them as you would before. Treat them like the friend they are, or the family they are. Give them the respect you should give a stranger, if they are one.
Because we should treat all those that we meet with empathy, that doesn’t change when someone is grieving.
Grief is a feeling, it’s a state, but it’s not supposed to be a conversation starter.
It’s a good thing to talk about mental health and our bereavement, but we need to talk about it in a way that feels safe to all parties.
Maybe the best way to start is to ask them if they are okay, and then ask if they want to talk about it, don’t try to talk for someone because they don’t want to speak about it; let them lead.