Chapter 5: When death is from suicide

How much do I tell them?

I let their questions guide me about how much information to give them.

Talk honestly

While many people hesitate to tell children the method of suicide, talking honestly may include gently giving them the facts, if they want to know this information. Children who don’t hear directly from their caregivers may learn about the how from someone else.

Follow their lead

You don’t need to give all the details immediately. Instead, be guided by their questions. Children who ask about the method of death are usually ready for the answer even when it’s difficult to hear.

Avoid graphic details

As you provide information to those who want to know, keep in mind that the graphic details (such as blood stains) aren’t helpful. Here’s an example of providing factual information without graphic details:

Your dad used a gun and shot himself.

Answer questions

You may also be asked questions around the level of consciousness or physical suffering.

Was mom awake after being hit by the train?

Was grandma in pain before she died? 

Provide support 

For those children who want to know more, providing this difficult information while you’re there to support them is more helpful than withholding details. For those who don’t want to know more, let them know that if they change their mind to let you know so you can have the conversation.