suicide SUPPORT
david j. sperling BIO
speaking info
choice links
There are plenty of resources available through the above websites...
Including immediate crisis intervention and
suicide prevention information and assistance...
If you are feeling like harming or killing yourself,
please go to either of these websites and just
take a look at what they have to offer...
It will only take a few moments...
You are worth it...
If you only hear the sound of one person clapping
(like I often do) know that it is me and I believe in you:    OR

responding to suicide survivors


i see a some similarities in the emotional reactions between suicidal survivors and those who act out in custody...just the reactions.  the range is wide—the grief seems brought on unjustly—surprisingly...there is confusion, bargaining, and a difficulty understanding the circumstances...the huge difference is obviously the sadness—there are no ethics at play with a suicidal survivor—they are the victim.  of course, the inmate who acts out claims the role of the victim—but it simply a delusion.


discuss similarities between Kubler Ross’ STAGES OF DEATH and the stages of a DRUNK IN PUBLIC arrest.


i don’t know that your role as a grief counselor and intervener is going to be that different when it comes to serving a suicidal survivor as opposed to a trauma victim...the dynamics are very much the same.  the suicidal survivor may have a wider range of reactions—due to the shock or the anger—especially if the survivor is the parent of  a child—but this is still a generality, for we all know everyone acts differently.

coping with death never easy. When suicide is the cause of death, the situation can be even more uncomfortable.

it’s important that the survivor understands that brain diseases such as clinical depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar illness, and schizophrenia underly 90% of suicides.

depression is a no-fault disease of the brain. it is not caused just by life events such as the break-up of a relationship or loss of a job.

express sympathy...avoid statements like, "You're you, you'll marry again." or "At least you have other children." Although well intentioned, these statements can be upsetting. A heartfelt, "I'm sorry for your loss," is appropriate.  the survivor is in the middle of a traumatic blur—so simplicity and presence are key.

the survivor may be experiencing a number of intense emotions: shock, pain, anger, bewilderment, disbelief, yearning, anxiety, depression, and stress are emotions expressed by some suicide survivors.

remember that grief is an intensely individualistic journey and every does it differently on their own time table—there is no “right way” to grieve.

although you may have experienced grief in your life, avoid statements like, "I know how you feel." Instead ask how the person is feeling...if there is a common thread between you and the survivor, it can be touched on—but it is delicate and understanding the person is critical.

listen & acknowledge

Listening can be the most helpful thing you can do for a suicide survivor. Acknowledge the difficulty of the situation and be available if the survivor wants to talk.

Find out about suicide survivor grief/support groups in your community.

Many survivors have found it helpful to attend a SUICIDE SURVIVOR SUPPORT GROUP.  Encourage the survivor to attend at least three or four meetings.


grief after suicide

Know that you can survive, even if you feel you can't.  the pain is horrible—but temporary.  telling the truth to those in anguish is real and creates a bond.

Intense feelings of grief can be overwhelming and frightening. This is normal. You are not going crazy; you're grieving.  remind and reassure.

Feelings of guilt, confusion, anger, and fear are common responses to grief.

You may experience thoughts of suicide. This is common. It is also temporary.  It doesn't mean you'll act on those thoughts. However, if you begin to feel like you may, ask for help or call 911. 

Forgetfulness is a common, but temporary side effect. Grieving takes so much energy that other things may fade in importance.

Keep asking "why" until you no longer need to ask.

Healing takes time. Allow yourself the time you need to grieve.

Grief has no predictable pattern or timetable. Though there are elements of commonality in grief, each person and each situation is unique.

Delay making major decisions if possible. Selling a home, car, cashing in on policies, moving, quitting a job, etc. are all things that should be avoided if possible.

The path of grief is one of twists and turns and you may often feel you are getting nowhere. Remember even setbacks are a kind of progress

This is the hardest thing you will ever do. Be patient with yourself. Seek out people who are willing to listen when you need to talk and who understand your need to be silent.

Give yourself permission to seek professional help.

Avoid people who try to tell you what to feel and how to feel it and, in particular, those who think you should "be over it by now."

Find a SUICIDE SURVIVOR SUPPORT GROUP that provides a safe place for you to express your feelings, or simply a place to go to be with other survivors who are experiencing some of the same things you're going through.

coping for friends or family

When friends and family ask how they can help, you might want to give them a copy of this section.

When there has been a death of a loved one by suicide, survivors will experience a depth and range of feelings. It is important to honor and respect the needs of the survivors in the days, weeks and months following the suicide. Often you may feel helpless. These guidelines help you understand what may be comforting to the family. However, before you assume responsibilities, we believe it's important to ask survivors whether they need your help. Some survivors gain added strength from performing many of the responsibilities below, while others may want to rely on friends or family for support and guidance.

Respond honestly to questions asked by the family. You don't need to answer more than asked. If they want to know more, they will ask later.

Surround them with as much love and understanding as you can.

Give them some private time. Be there, but don't smother them.

Show love, not control.

Let them talk. Most of the time they just need to hear out loud what is going on inside their heads. They usually aren't seeking advice.

Encourage the idea that decisions be made by the family together.

Expect that they will become tired easily. Grieving is hard work.

Let them decide what they are ready for. Offer your ideas but let them decide themselves.

Keep a list of phone calls, visitors and people who bring food and gifts.

Offer to make calls to people they wish to notify.

Keep the mail straight. Keep track of bills, cards, newspaper notices, etc.

Help with errands.

Keep a list of medication administered.

Offer to help with documentation needed by the insurance company, such as a copy of the death certificate.

Give special attention to members of the family -- at the funeral and in the months to come.

Allow them to express as much grief as they are feeling at the moment and are willing to share.

Allow them to talk about the special endearing qualities of the loved one they have lost.

Write down a story about my loved one (especially one that I might not know myself) and give it to me, so that I can read it when I'm ready.

- Don't be afraid to say my loved one's name. Don't worry about making me cry; it hurts so much more when no one talks about the person I lost -

what a child may feel after a loved one's suicide

  • Abandoned - that the person who died didn't love them.
  • Feel the death is their fault - if they would have loved the person more or behaved differently.
  • Afraid that they will die too.
  • Worried that someone else they love will die or worry about who will take care of them.
  • Guilt - because they wished or thought of the person's death.
  • Sad.
  • Embarrassed - to see other people or to go back to school.
  • Confused.
  • Angry - with the person who died, at God, at everyone.
  • Lonely.
  • Denial - pretend like nothing happened.
  • Numb - can't feel anything.
  • Wish it would all just go away.

A child or adolescent may have a many mixed feelings or may feel "numb." Whatever they are feeling, remember your role as an adult is to help them and be supportive. Reassure the child whatever feelings they might experience, they have permission to let them out. If they want to keep to themself for a while, let them. Don't tell a child how they should or should not feel.  This doesn’t work for anyone, especially children.  Also, don’t discourage them from expressing negative emotions like anger.

How to explain suicide to children or young people

Age is a factor in understanding the type and amount of information to provide. Some children you can talk to about suicide with a 1 or 2 sentence answer; others might have continuous questions which they should be allowed to ask and to have answered. The most important thing to remember is to be honest. Children will always find out about what happened at some point, so be honest.

When a child hears that someone "committed suicide" or died of suicide, one of their first questions might be, "What is suicide?" One way to explain is that people die in different ways - from cancer, heart attacks, car accidents, or old age for example. Suicide simply means that a person caused his or her own death intentionally, it doesn’t have to mean more than that. However, also explaining that the person they loved caused their own death because they had an illness in their brain can also be helpful. If they press for more detail, use your discretion to help the child understand as much as is age appropriate.

Some examples of explaining why suicide happens

"He had an illness in his brain (or mind) and he died."

"Her brain got very sick and she died."

"The brain is an organ of the body just like the heart, liver and kidneys. Sometimes it can get sick, just like other organs."

"She had an illness called depression and it caused her to die."

If someone the child knows, or the child herself, is being treated for depression, it's critical to stress that only some people die from depression, not everyone. Remind her there are many options for getting help, like medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of both.

A more detailed explanation might be:

"Our thoughts and feelings come from our brain, and sometimes a person's brain can get very sick - the sickness can cause a person to feel very badly inside. It also makes a person's thoughts get all jumbled and mixed up, so sometimes they can't think clearly. Some people can't think of any other way of stopping the hurt they feel inside. They don't understand that they don't have to feel that way, that they can get help."

It's important to note that there are people who were getting help for their depression and died anyway. Just as in other illnesses, a person can receive the best medical treatment available and still not survive. This can also be the case with depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.

A child needs to understand that the person who died loved them, but that because of the illness he or she may have been unable to convey that or to think about how the child would feel after the death. The child needs to know that the suicide was not their fault, and that nothing they said or did, or didn't say or do, caused the death.

Some children might ask questions related to the morals of suicide - good/bad, right/wrong. It is best to steer clear of this, if possible. Suicide is none of these - it is something that happens when pain exceeds resources for coping with that pain.

Whatever approach is taken when explaining suicide to children, they need to know they can talk about it and ask questions whenever they feel the need. They need to understand they won't always feel the way they do now, that things will get better, and that they'll be loved and taken care of no matter what.

- reassure children that it is NEVER their fault and always be honest...they need to trust and rely on you -