Children - Alliance for Suicide Prevention of Larimer County


 Explaining Suicide to Kids

  • Be honest. Kids hear things, more things than we know. When they hear adults talking but only get bits and pieces of information they tend to fill in the gaps with their imagination and usually not with kind and loving things. When kids have, age-appropriate, information they can better process their feelings and grief. In this situation, while it may feel counter intuitive, clear is kind, truly.
  • Use your discretion as their parent. You know best what level of information your child can and cannot hold. When you do chose to tell them, use clear, honest information.
    * “Dad died. Just like our bodies can get sick, so can our brains. Dad’s brain was very sick and it caused him to kill himself.”
    * “Mom has died. She killed herself.”
  • Tell them they are safe. When kids lose someone they love suddenly, they often feel afraid the other people they love and that care for them might also die suddenly. Reassure kids that they are safe and the adults around them are also safe, as long as that is true.

Kids react differently to grief than adults do.
We (adults) expect that they will cry and be stuck in sadness/grief the way adults often are. Kids process through play. The best thing for them is the opportunity to be a kid – to play, to watch a favorite movie, read a book, dance around and cry, or experience whatever other hard feelings they have.

We are often asked by adults, “how do I know when to worry?” The simplest way we can put it is to pay attention to their (or your) ability to live, laugh and love. Here’s what we mean by this:

a person’s ability to do daily activities, i.e. eat, shower, go to school/work
a person’s ability to find joy
a person’s ability to have satisfying relationships

If you find that your child (or you) is struggling with their ability to live, laugh and/or love for at least 2 weeks or longer than you definitely want to consider reaching out for additional support. With trauma, though, it is common to expect a disruption in a person’s ability to live, laugh and love for at least 6 weeks before a person’s routines and regular self-care come back. If the pain is constant, don’t wait, reach out for help sooner than later.

Information retrieved from Grief Support of the Rockies

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