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Tools for Parenting After Suicide

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Resources are available for those whose loved one died by suicide. The following information will walk you through important steps to help you find compassionate support.

Finding peace after a suicide death can take some time. In order to care for your family, it is important that you first care for yourself. You can start by doing the following:

  • Treat yourself with kindness. You did not intend for this to happen, and you are not to blame. Do something nice for yourself each day.
  • Do the basics. Shower, brush your teeth, comb your hair.
  • Eat healthy. Grieving can make simple tasks difficult. Choose healthy foods so your body can function as it should. And drink plenty of water. It’s easy to forget this when your mind is occupied with so many other concerns.
  • Get enough sleep. Focus on getting enough sleep. If you aren’t sleeping well, make an appointment with your doctor to get the help you need. Proper sleep can help your body begin to heal from the physical effects of grief.
  • Talk with someone. This is not a journey to take alone. A grief counselor who will understand what you are going through will offer a safe space to vent and help you figure out how to deal with your grief so you can be healthy for your family.
  • Connect with family and friends. Your family and friends will likely want to help, but may not know how. Ask them for help with specific tasks that will truly help you and your family. Tell them when you need a break from visits too, but stay connected.
  • Let some things go. It’s OK if the floor isn’t vacuumed. It’s better to take care of you and your family now. Ask your friends for help with cleaning until you are back to where you can better deal with those kinds of things.

Those exposed to a suicide death are at greater risk for suicide. It is important for survivors to build protective factors into their daily lives.

Protective factors are skills, strengths or resources that help people deal with stressful events, and can lessen the risk of suicide. Find ways to incorporate the following protective factors into your family’s life:

  • Belonging: Be there for your family/friends and allow them to be there for you.
  • Membership: Become active in a group (religious, sports, crafting, books, outdoors).
  • Comradery: Connect with others who share the same experiences (grief, military).
  • Pride: Take pride in the things you do (professional and personal, big and small tasks).
  • Responsibility: Do things that bring you a sense of purpose.
  • Problem-solving: Ask a friend or counselor for help if you cannot see the solution.
  • Coping skills: Talk out your feelings, exercise and/or meditate (grief and trauma counselors can offer more skills).

If you’re a parent dealing with a suicide death of a loved one, try to remember that children and teens grieve differently from adults. You can help them by telling the basic (age-appropriate) truth, answering their questions and sticking to their daily routines.

You should also assure them that they are not responsible for the death of their loved one, and find counseling and other resources for them as needed.

  • Tell the truth. Kids are smart. Even young kids sense when you aren’t telling them the truth. If you’re hiding the truth from them, you could make them feel anxious. To avoid this, talk about a suicide death in an honest, but age-appropriate way. Do so in an environment that makes them feel safe.
  • Answer questions. If your kids need to talk, one of the best ways to get them to open up is to encourage them to ask questions. Answer their questions as honestly as possible. If you feel that your kids are having a hard time talking to you, consider getting professional grief-counseling services as a family.
  • Stick to your daily routines. Kids need consistency, and routines. Let them know that they can count on certain things no matter what the circumstances are.
  • Try to stay calm. In the first few days after a death by suicide, you may have a lot to do as you cope with your own grief, and your kids may need you now more than ever. It is OK to ask another adult for help. If you are feeling hopeless, get some help right away. Military OneSource is always there to guide you toward the right kind of support.
  • Make sure your kids know that they are not responsible. Children often feel that someone’s death is their fault. Reassure them that what happened is not their fault.

A death by suicide might leave you wondering what you could have done differently, what to do next and what your new life might look like. You can begin to find some answers through TAPS and Military OneSource, which offer free, round-the-clock help, as well as Give an Hour®, which offers free professional counseling by appointment.

TAPS: “A Place of Companionship”

One place you will find support and understanding is TAPS, a nonprofit organization that offers a range of ways for you to connect to comfort, care and resources in your area. TAPS support can help you begin to find peace and chart a path forward. Through the TAPS support network, you can:

The TAPS 24/7 National Military Survivor Helpline is always available toll-free with support and resources at 800-959-TAPS (8277).

Military OneSource support

Military OneSource provides a variety of resources, including the following articles:

Military OneSource also offers:

Give an Hour® support

Give An Hour® provides resources to military, veterans, their families, and anyone who is seeking mental health and emotional support.

The effects of a suicide death and the stigma surrounding it can have a lasting effect on family members, but there is a wealth of information from the National Institute of Mental Health detailing the signs and symptoms, risk factors and treatments available. The Institute also has answers to some frequently asked questions.

To further explore this critical topic and access resources:

  • TRICARE may provide medically necessary coverage of behavior health services during times of need.
  • Military Crisis Line offers free, confidential, 24/7 support at 988, Option 1.
  • Veterans Affairs Bereavement Counseling offers bereavement support to parents, spouses and children of active duty and National Guard or reserves who die while on military duty. Call 202-461-6530 for more information.

Suicide Prevention Resources

Military OneSource offers free resources and contacts for service members, their families, and surviving family members in crisis.

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