Losing a loved one to suicide: How to break the news to others
Suicide prevention

Losing a loved one to suicide: How to break the news to others

Talking about a loss to suicide can add to the grief a survivor experiences. Here are some things to consider about what to share, how much, and to whom

Ranjitha Jeurkar

Whether you decide to tell or not tell others about your loved one’s suicide is up to you. Or, if you’re part of a family, it’s up to you as a family unit to make that decision.

  1. It’s okay to make a choice. You as an individual or as a family get to decide what you are okay sharing with others about the loss of your loved one.

  2. Telling a few people that this was a death by suicide can help you seek the emotional and practical support you may need immediately after. Share this information with those who you trust.

  3. Identify a person who you trust, who is not as closely impacted by the death as you are, and who is likely to understand what you’re going through. Have them with you when you break the news to others. They can act as a support for you.

  4. When you speak to other people, what you say could depend on how you feel at the moment. If you deviate from what you intended to say, or share more details than you had originally intended, be kind to yourself.

  5. If you’re breaking the news to a large group of people, check if it is feasible to do it together instead of person by person, so it is less of an emotional strain on you. In a group, you’re also likely to find at least one other person who will be supportive towards you.

  6. When communicating with people who’re close to you or your family, consider sending an e-mail rather than telling them in person, if the thought of having more conversations exhausts you.

  7. Sharing details: What details you share depends on your comfort as an individual or as a family.

You could choose to tell them what happened; or, intentionally share information of a generic nature.

“It was an accidental passing and we aren’t in a space to discuss this right now.”

Or tell people that you will share this information with them when you are ready to.

“I will tell you when I am able to deal with this better, and I need to take some time right now.”

When you inform people about the death, it’s not necessary to share how they died. If you are in a family or group where you don’t get to make a choice about what you share and how you share it, consider seeking the support of a friend or loved one to handle the task.

This article is part of a series on Understanding and coping with a loss to suicide. Read the other articles in this series:

1. Why suicide grief can be complex

2. What does grief look like?

3. Self-care in the immediate aftermath

4. On the need to understand why

5. Where should you seek help?

6. Grieving together with family and friends

7. Breaking the news to others

8. What to do with the note

This series has been compiled with inputs from Shweta Srinivasan, psychologist, The Mind Clan and former suicide bereavement support group manager at Sisters Living Works and Nyana Sabharwal, co-founder of We Hear You, a suicide support bereavement group.

White Swan Foundation
www.whiteswanfoundation.org