Offering Support After A Suicide

AA Milne quote photo | Dianna Bonny Photography

I had a few calls over the holidays asking for help in how to respond and offer support after a suicide, so I thought I would share some ideas on how to be a friend in the aftermath. These are things that helped my family and I share them in case this experience crosses your path.

I love the A. A. Milne quote above because it captures the spirit in which this space should be approached.

It always gives me pause to think of the humans starting out on this journey and takes me back to ground zero of the those first few moments and days. The pervasive sense of disbelief, and dense energy that permeated every cell. The cloud of numbness that followed me everywhere. The strange sense of knowing that my life had been permanently altered in a way that I could not quite grasp. It took me a long while to realize that things would never be the same.

There is so much shock in the beginning that I always advise just being a quiet presence, and calm buffer, by relieving the immediate family of day-to-day chores and filling in where you can make the transition easier. Don’t ask how they are, just be there. Notice what they might need and seamlessly make it happen. Organizing meals, handling phone calls, and helping with the business of the coroner and memorial service can lighten the burden.

Overshadowed by guilt and shame, self-care tends to get pushed to the back burner. Try to assess where you might fill in the gaps to create nurturing rituals for the family. Perhaps stock the kitchen full of healthful food and nourishing juices. Suggest (and arrange) a relaxing massage or long walk on the beach. Calming essential oils and candles can foster a peaceful atmosphere.

It was a tremendous to have this kind of help from my friends at a time when everything was so overwhelming. It felt as though someone had torn off my skin, exposing every nerve to the elements. For a few months, I never left the house without sunglasses and earphones plugged into my iPhone to minimize contact with the outside world.

If there are children involved, I would definitely advise alerting their school counselor, or principal, and look into getting them a Section 504 program for “Complicated Grief.” Also, inquire into whether there is a suicide support group in place at the school, or if one can be organized.

Don’t feel you have to offer solutions. Just be present and listen. Give them permission to explore their feelings, perhaps encourage them to write in a journal, if that is helpful. It is so important to create a safe space to talk about it, and let children express what they feel from the get go. Even anger – especially anger.

In its infinite wisdom, the body can create a wall of numbness. I think of this as a safety system so we don’t go into overload. The pain will bubble up through the numbing fog in its own time, but it is important to establish the foundation for open and honest discussion right from the start.

I suggest advising them to write things down as they happen. Conversations, odd details, legal and financial data: it will be helpful in the long run because memory can fail under traumatic conditions. There is a lot of strange new information that comes with this experience and it is easy to lose track. Perhaps offer to set up files to help keep track of all the documents.

Life goes on and people do tend to fold back into their lives after 6-8 weeks. Things can become quite lonely and isolating so continue to offer support regularly and connect in a meaningful way. Let them know you will be there for the long haul.

It is tremendously helpful.

My favorite line came from a friend who said, “Holy shit. I don’t know what you are feeling but I will be here and help you in anyway I can.” True to her word, she calls and checks in on me to this day.

While I hope you never encounter this experience, I am sending love and light should it happen.

May you be blessed and protected always.


Who is Dianna Bonny?

Hi, my name is Dianna Bonny. It’s my mission to candidly share my journey with you. For me, it’s all about the healing: to create a radiant healing energy for others who have befallen a similar fate. Together, we can forge beautiful lives of belonging and connection. Thanks for joining me today! I look forward to hearing from you.


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