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Supporting the bereaved

General principles

Appropriate support will depend on individual needs, recognising that suicide-bereaved people:
  • are often severely depressed and traumatised in the initial stages of their grief, and may be unable to mobilise themselves to seek help – proactive outreach may be needed46
  • have common experiences such as wanting to know why the suicide occurred and feeling stigmatised, but that 
  • grief experiences are variable and fluid – they differ considerably in intensity and length among cultural groups 
  • and from person to person34
  • may benefit from discussing the complex and painful grieving process associated with suicide and learning that different family members will use different coping methods at different times47
  • are at increased risk for suicide and mental illness, and may benefit from an open discussion about this and the offer of monitoring and provision of support and resources.46,47

If you have been involved in the care of a patient who has suicided, you may also be affected by suicide bereavement. You may face trying to cope with intense grief and at the same time suppressing these feelings to continue to help the bereaved family and community members, and sometimes for fear of professional disapproval.8,45


  1. Suicide Prevention Australia. Position statement: Suicide bereavement and postvention. Leichhardt, NSW: Suicide Prevention Australia, 2009.
  2. Zisook S, Shear K. Grief and bereavement: What psychiatrists need to know. World Psychiatry 2009;8(2):67–74.
  3. Foley SR, Kelly BD. When a patient dies by suicide: Incidence, implications and coping strategies. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment 2007;13(2):134–38.
  4. Jordan J, Feigelman W, McMenamy J, Mitchell A. Research on the needs of survivors. In: Jordan J, McIntosh J, editors. Grief after suicide: Understanding the consequences and caring for the survivors. New York: Routledge, 2011.
  5. McGann V, Gutin N, Jordan J. Guidelines for postvention care with survivor families after the suicide of a client. In: Jordan J, McIntosh J, editors. Grief after suicide: Understanding the consequences and caring for the survivor. New York: Routledge, 2011.


After suicide: A resource for GPs