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Father in denim shirt comforting his young daughter, who is sad

How You Can Support a Child After Parent Suicide

By Children, Grief/Loss, Loss from Suicide

Losing a loved one to suicide is devastating at any age, but it has a deep, formative impact on children. Johns Hopkins Children’s Center has done extensive research and found that children who are under the age of 18 when their parent dies by suicide are three times more likely to complete suicide themselves. That’s why it is so deeply important to provide support, encouragement, and care to these children. With that in mind, we’ll discuss 10 ways you can support a child as they process a parent’s suicide.

Note: This is a sensitive, complex topic, and will be a long-term undertaking for adult caregivers. We recommend that you also speak with a child grief counselor or specialist to get the most well-rounded information possible as you seek to help the child in your life.

Young boy sitting by himself, looking out a window with a stuffed animal beside him

Understanding the Work of Grief

First, let’s first talk about the “work of grief.” What does this mean? Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt, a nationally respected author and grief counselor, says that we all have six needs when we mourn. Six needs that will help us do the work of grief and move toward healing and reconciliation. (Click here to read Dr. Wolfelt’s full article on the six needs.)

They are:

  1. Acknowledging the reality of the death
  2. Embracing the pain of the loss
  3. Remembering the person who has died
  4. Developing a new self-identity
  5. Searching for meaning
  6. Receiving ongoing support from others

As you help a child process their suicide grief, keep these needs in mind. The child will work through each need during the grief journey. It will likely take many years, and there won’t be any particular order. Instead, focus on being there for them – a steady source of love and support.

Now that you have an understanding of the work of grief, let’s look at 10 tips for supporting a child after a parent completes suicide.

10 Tips for Supporting a Child After a Parent’s Suicide

Blonde mother kneeling in front of young son, talking softly to him

1. Be Open and Honest

It’s instinctive to want to protect children from the harsh things of life, but by doing so, we don’t teach them how to overcome those hard things. So, even though it may seem kinder to gloss over or barely discuss a parent’s suicide death, resist the urge. Also, don’t wait to tell them. The last thing they need is to hear about a parent’s death from a classmate, a teacher, or even on social media.

Children need to be able to trust the adults in their lives to tell the truth. When they ask questions, answer the questions. Be open. Be honest. Yes, be tactful and age-appropriate, but tell them what has happened. Children are resilient, but if you hide the truth, you will only create confusion and anger later on when they find out you weren’t fully honest.

To help you prepare for potential questions your child could ask, click here.

Mother hugging her sad, young daughter close as they grieve

2. Show Your Own Emotions

As adults, we try to keep our emotions in check, but this habit is often harmful. Children learn by example – by watching what you do – so if you stifle your emotions, they will stifle theirs. If you refuse to face your own depth of feeling, they won’t learn how to understand their own feelings.

So, be open with your own emotions. As you open up, your child will learn that it’s normal and okay to be sad, angry, betrayed, or confused after a death. By modeling healthy ways to process grief, you will help the child acknowledge the reality of the death and move forward on a journey toward healing.

Dad talking face to face with his middle-age son, explaining the suicide of a parent

3. Define “Suicide” and Discuss “Sadness vs. Depression”

You’ll use different words depending on the age of the child, but you want your child to have an understanding of suicide that comes from you. Additionally, it’s important to explain the difference between sadness and depression. You certainly don’t want a child to think suicide is the answer when they are feeling sad.

Instead, emphasize that the person was sick – they had a disease – which made them unable to think clearly or make good decisions. Then, discuss healthy ways to cope with sadness and other difficult feelings, so your child understands there are good ways to deal with big emotions.

For detailed tips on how to keep the discussion age-appropriate, click here.

Focus on the hands of two people, a female adult gently holding the hands of a child who needs comfort

4. Leave the Discussion Open

Grief isn’t over in a day. A child dealing with the suicide death of a parent has a long road ahead. They may ask questions every day for weeks, stop for a while, and then bring it up again in a year. As the adult caregiver, always be ready to open the discussion again. The child is only bringing it up because they’ve been thinking about it and want to process something.

Plus, children grieve differently, depending on age and personality. They will ask questions, and then they will go off and play. Or they won’t want to talk at first, but after they’ve had time to think, they will want to discuss it with you. Be open and ready, expecting future questions, so you won’t be caught off guard when the day comes.

Father in denim shirt comforting his young daughter, who is sad

5. Assure Them It’s Not Their Fault

Many adults deal with guilt after a suicide death, so it’s not surprising that children will experience the same thing. However, with children, it’s even more important to assure them it’s not their fault. They are too young to understand the social and psychological factors that contribute to suicide.

Instead of understanding that their parent was dealing with depression, they will instead think, “If only I had picked up my toys,” “been less annoying,” “done what they asked me to do,” then they might still be here. A child may also deal with feelings of rejection, thinking they weren’t important enough to their parent. As sensitively as possible, assure the child it’s not their fault. Remind them that their parent was sick and that sickness has nothing to do with the child.

Father and son sitting on tan couch at home, talking together

6. Get Back to Routine

After the death of a parent, a child’s everyday routine will change, no doubt. But you can create a similar routine that will become familiar and offer security. As they head back to school, make sure to let their teachers and counselors know what has happened, so they can support your child during school hours.

Include encouragement, hugs, and assurance in their daily routine. Your child needs to know that you aren’t going anywhere and will be there for them through the ups and downs.

Mother and son sitting on couch at home, mother hugging son close as he cries and is upset

7. Watch for Signs of Trauma

Some children experience more trauma than others after the suicide death of a parent. As you interact with the child, be on the lookout for certain warning signs:

  • Withdrawal from normal activities
  • Changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • Avoiding reminders of the person who has died
  • Participating in numbing activities (like too much TV, video games, etc.)
  • Anger or behavioral issues
  • Reduced academic performance

A child may exhibit some of these at the beginning of the grief journey, but if they don’t go away or they get worse, reach out to a professional for assistance.

Mother and young son at the graveside, participating in a remembrance activity and healing action

8. Participate in Healing Actions and Remembrance Activities

Regardless of the person’s manner of death, the work of grief requires that we take time to remember and reflect. This may mean:

  • Creating a scrapbook or memory box
  • Drawing pictures
  • Preparing a favorite meal
  • Watching a favorite movie or going to a beloved place
  • Attending a remembrance service at the holidays

In addition to remembrance activities, a funeral service provides an opportunity for your child to say goodbye and express their grief. While funerals can feel uncomfortable, children learn valuable life lessons from them. In the end, the funeral plays a large role in the grief journey. Those who take time to honor a loved one’s memory can more easily move forward after a loss.

Of course, you should discuss the funeral with your child and see if they’d like to contribute. Some children will want to participate, and others won’t. That’s okay – let them make the decision.

Young girl having fun blowing on a dandelion

9. Create a Sense of Wonder

While you can’t ignore the difficulties in life, you don’t have focus your family dynamic on them either. Nurture a sense of wonder, joy, hope, and creativity in your child. Discuss why life is beautiful and what good things are to come. Show them how to work through the big emotions.

As you pour into your child’s life, they will see the good and the bad, the ups and the downs, and realize that it’s normal for these things to occur. This type of worldview will help them face the challenges ahead with resilience and fortitude, making them strong, capable, and emotionally healthy adults.

Mother and daughter sitting on a couch as they talk with a therapist

10. Seek Professional Help, When Needed

Caring for a child after parent suicide is not easy. If the child in your life is experiencing significant challenges, seek out professional help. A grief counselor or mental health therapist can work directly with your child and give you customized tips to help them through this season of deep grief.

For a child to become a healthy adult, it’s important to address any lingering effects of the death. Only then will the child be able to move forward with confidence and free of self-blame or feelings of rejection.

On the journey ahead, some days will be especially hard. But you’re not alone. Rely on your close family and friends to help you. Reach out to the professionals when it’s beyond your own capabilities. With support, encouragement, and time, your child can do the work of grief and move forward to a bright and healthy future.

Additional Resources

Children, Teens, and Suicide Loss (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention)
Talking to Children About a Suicide (Mental Health Commission of Canada)

Heart-shaped funeral wreath of white flowers

Gifting Sympathy Flowers: A Practice that Goes Back Millennia

By Grief/Loss, History of Funerals

If you’ve attended a funeral or memorial service, you’ve likely seen a cascade of beautiful sympathy flowers gracing the front of the chapel, church, or venue. Whether burial or cremation is chosen, flowers are arranged in a vibrant display of care, love, and support. But why do we give sympathy flowers? How long has humankind been taking part in this practice? Let’s take a deeper look.

Green urn placed on pedestal surrounded by red and yellow flower garland

A Practice that Goes Back Millennia

Every culture on the planet, going back as far as we can, records some form of funeral ritual. From the Ancient Greeks and Egyptians to the Neanderthals, every people group has found some way to honor their dead. With sympathy flowers, two archeological finds have given us insight into how flowers were used in millennia past.

Raqefet Cave

In 2013, a five-chambered grotto, now called Raqefet Cave, was found on the slopes of Mount Carmel in modern-day Israel. Dated to 14,000 years ago, researchers unearthed the final resting place of four individuals. Upon further study, the team discovered that the four had been buried on a literal bed of flowers. The flowers were pressed into a thin layer of mud coating the limestone floor, and they included Judean sage and members of the mint and figwort families. But there is evidence that goes back even further!

Shanidar Cave

First discovered in the 1950s, Shanidar Cave housed the remains of 10 people (identified as Neanderthals), who were found near clusters of flower pollen. At the time, the concept that flowers were left on the grave was dismissed. Researchers decided the pollen’s presence must be from modern contamination or from burrowing rodents and insects.

HOWEVER, in late 2019, excavators unearthed a new skeleton in the same area, dating to 70,000 years ago. This one was discovered in sediment that contained ancient pollen and other mineralized plant remains. As a result, the idea of flower burials so early in humankind’s history was revived! While testing is still underway, the research team expects confirmation of early flower burial practices.

But Why Do We Give Sympathy Flowers?

Casket spray of red roses resting on a silver casket

Historically, to cover unpleasant scents

Before embalming became common practice, flowers were used to cover up unpleasant smells. Mourners wanted to pay their respects, but without a way to slow decay, flowers were used to mask any odors. Former President Andrew Jackson provides a famous example. By the time his funeral was complete (thousands of people came), his casket didn’t smell good. The undertaker surrounded Jackson with flowers to alleviate the smell. Also, side note, someone (likely the undertaker) removed Jackson’s swearing pet parrot from the service for disturbing the proceedings – who knew?!

To show love, care, and support

Today, sympathy flowers show love to the deceased person and support to the grieving family. Just as we give flowers at anniversaries, weddings, graduations, and other special days, flowers universally represent our love, our care, and our deep-seated support.

Woman in black coat leaving a red rose of remembrance on a grave marker

To create a warm and vibrant atmosphere

For some of us, a funeral or memorial service would look incomplete without flowers. The casket or urn might look quite alone with no flowers or embellishments. For many funerals, sympathy flowers create a lovely canvas and show that people deeply care about the person who has died. When there are no flowers, people may unconsciously wonder why – sympathy flowers are that ingrained in our cultural understanding of funerals.

(NOTE: In some religions, flowers are taboo or not expected. If you aren’t sure whether flowers are appropriate, respectfully ask the family.)

To express feeling and sentiment

Traditionally, flowers have meaning and convey a message. By choosing specific flowers, you can send a special letter of love. For example, white lilies symbolize purity, sympathy, and restored innocence. Carnations are a popular choice. White carnations symbolize pure love and innocence; red carnations represent admiration and deep love; while pink carnations stand for eternal remembrance. To learn more about the meanings of flowers, go to 7 Popular Sympathy Flowers and Their Meanings.

Heart-shaped funeral wreath of white flowers

What Kind of Floral Arrangement Should I Give?

If you choose to give sympathy flowers, you will likely not buy the casket spray (the arrangement that lies on top of the casket). The most common types of arrangements to gift are:

  • Standing sprays – a hand-designed arrangement of mixed flowers on a wire stand
  • Floor bouquet – an arrangement placed on the floor near the urn or casket
  • Funeral basket – a smaller arrangement that sits in a basket or large plastic container
  • Funeral wreath – a wreath of flowers placed on a standing easel
  • Funeral garland – a strand of flowers that can lay across a casket or encircle an urn

Arrangements come in all sizes, colors, and costs. Either the funeral home or your local florist can give you insight into your options. In fact, some funeral homes partner with local florists, allowing you to order an arrangement through the funeral home’s website. You can speak to the funeral home about this service or reach out to your go-to florist.

Family of four wearing black, each holding a white or red flower of remembrance

What if the Family Indicates a Charity “In Lieu of Flowers”?

If the deceased’s family has selected a charity in lieu of flowers, it’s your choice what you would like to do. Giving a sympathy gift is up to the discretion of the gift giver. If you prefer to give flowers rather than a donation, do so. If you would like to support the charitable organization, do so. Or, if you’d like to do both, that’s fine, too. Ultimately, the goal of a sympathy gift is to convey love, care, and support. We all do that in different ways – find the one that best communicates your personal feelings.

For more ideas on sympathy gifts, check out these resources:

10 Caring and Creative Sympathy Gifts

Sympathy Gifts You Can Mail

7 Popular Sympathy Flowers and Their Meanings

Sympathy Cards: What to Write & Examples

8 Simple Tips for Writing a Meaningful Condolence Letter

Depressed young man sitting on the bench in tunnel.

Grief and Father’s Day: Remembering Your Child

By Grief/Loss

Father’s Day, like other holidays, can be a trying time for those grieving – especially for fathers who have lost a child. While losing a loved one is never easy, losing a child is one of the most painful challenges we can face in life. The pain of loss can consume all we do, making it feel impossible to find joy. That pain can also rob us of celebrating life’s happiest moments, like Father’s Day, as celebrations become just another reminder of what we have lost.

Whether this is your first Father’s Day following the loss of a child or if it’s been years since their passing, your grief may be overpowering your joy. You may be dreading the thought of celebrating Father’s Day. You may even wonder if you are allowed to celebrate Father’s Day if your loss was of your only child.

No matter how much pain you’re feeling, remember that you and your family are allowed to enjoy special days while grieving. The key is finding a balance between joy and grief.

So, this Father’s Day, lead your loved ones in celebrating the paternal figures in your life and the memory of your child. Remember the positive impact your child had on you, your spouse/partner, and your other children. Here are a few ideas to help get you started.

Honor Your Child’s Memory

Happy family of three persons walking the grass in the park.

Your child’s memory will be with you forever, but it can be hard to remember the good times when grief consumes all you do. Use Father’s Day as an opportunity to honor your child’s memory by taking part in their favorite activity. You can watch their favorite movie, eat their favorite meal, play their favorite game, or do something else they enjoyed. This intentional activity can help you feel closer to your child and make Father’s Day truly special for you and your family.

Tell Favorite Stories of Your Child

When we lose a loved one, the pain of loss can sometimes grip our ability to talk about them. That’s why sharing heartfelt stories of your loved one is important. Stories can help you acknowledge the reality of the loss and move you toward healthy grieving. The same is true if you’ve lost a child. Share stories of your child that make you laugh, smile, or even cry. But ultimately, share stories that make you proud to be their dad. Your child touched so many lives, so embrace their impact together as a family.

Share Your Love and Support for Your Family

Support, love and couple holding hands in a therapy session while talking to a relationship therapist.

Sometimes it takes losing a loved one for us to understand the importance of saying ‘I love you.’ Whether you say it every day or typically keep your emotions to yourself, tell your family how much they mean to you this Father’s Day. Let your words speak life and support your family on their grief journey. Father’s Day is the perfect time to express how much your family means to you. You can even write notes or letters to your surviving children, letting them know how much you care.

Take Time to Reflect

Spending time with your family on Father’s Day is important, but you may need a few moments for yourself as you grieve the loss of your child. You’ll likely feel a mix of emotions, which is perfectly normal. So, take time to reflect on your loss without distractions. Write your thoughts in a journal. Visit your child’s grave. Speak to a trusted friend or mentor, if you don’t want to be alone. All these options can help you take account of your emotions on what may be a difficult day.

Make Father’s Day Special

Rear view of little girl holding paper card behind her back, greeting positive adult man with Father's Day.

Balancing joy and grief is one of the most difficult things we can do in times of loss. Yet, finding that balance is also one of the most important things we can do to heal. You may believe that it’s wrong for you to celebrate Father’s Day with your family, but finding happiness through your pain is key to healthy grieving. Enjoy the time you have with your family, go out for a nice dinner, and smile as you unwrap your Father’s Day gifts. Though grief never leaves us, it also shouldn’t stay at the forefront of our lives forever.

If you’ve experienced the horrible pain of losing a child, you know that holidays, like Father’s Day, can be difficult. But find peace in knowing that your grief is proof of your intense love for your child, and that love will never fade. Instead of fearing Father’s Day, use that special Sunday in June to remember all the joy your child brought you and your family. And don’t forget, your child will live forever in your memory, so you’ll never have to celebrate Father’s Day without them.

For more resources, please see:

Can You Die of a Broken Heart?

By Grief/Loss

At some point in your life, you’ve likely heard the phrase that someone “died of a broken heart.” In most cases, people use this expression to refer to someone who fell into depression or deep sadness following the death of a loved one and eventually died without coming to a place of healing. But did you know that broken heart syndrome is a real thing and affects a small number of people every year? Let’s talk about it.

Mother and adult daughter sitting on couch, comforting each other

What is Broken Heart Syndrome?

Broken heart syndrome, also called stress cardiomyopathy or takotsubo cardiomyopathy, occurs when there’s a disruption of blood flow to the heart. The heart’s normal rhythm is interrupted, and the heart temporarily enlarges. This disruption is caused by extreme physical or emotional stress. Because the death of a loved one can trigger extreme stress, it’s not uncommon for cases of broken heart syndrome to coincide with a loss.

When you experience a stressful event, your body produces hormones and proteins, like adrenaline, to help you cope. However, in some rare cases, a section of heart muscle may become overwhelmed or stunned by the introduction of so much adrenaline. To compensate, the arteries narrow, causing a temporary decrease in blood flow to the heart. As a result, you may experience chest pain and shortness of breath.

Man sitting on couch at home, hand on chest as he experiences chest pain that could be broken heart syndrome

What are the Symptoms?

Perhaps the two most common symptoms are chest pain and shortness of breath. Because of that, broken heart syndrome is sometimes confused with a heart attack. However, a heart attack occurs because of clogged arteries while broken heart syndrome happens when the heart can’t contract properly. In other words, a person with no history of heart ailments can still experience broken heart syndrome.

A few more symptoms to watch for are sweating, dizziness, low blood pressure, nausea, fainting, irregular heartbeat, or heart palpitations. After the stressful event begins, a person may experience these symptoms almost immediately or it may be several hours.

Woman sitting in a hospital bed, doctor listening to her heartbeat with a stethoscope

What are the Most Common Causes?

The trigger for this ailment is extreme emotional or physical stress, but what causes that stress differs from person to person. While researchers are still actively learning more, here are a few examples of events that have caused broken heart syndrome in others:

  • Job loss
  • Major surgery
  • Death of a loved one
  • Divorce or other close relationship loss
  • A sudden illness, like an asthma attack or an allergic reaction
  • Some medications, such as for anxiety (rare)
  • Some illegal substances, like methamphetamine or cocaine
  • Extreme anger or intense fear

Who Is Most Likely to Experience It?

While anyone can experience broken heart syndrome, it’s most common in women ages 50+. A recent study found that about 2% of suspected heart attacks were actually broken heart syndrome. However, that percentage is likely a bit higher.

Women make up about 88% of reported cases, and most are post-menopausal. It’s thought that estrogen protects the heart against the harmful effects of hormones, and when the estrogen level declines after menopause, women are more susceptible to sudden stress. Additionally, a 2020 study found that post-menopausal women dealing with anxiety disorders had a higher risk than women without anxiety.

Younger woman and older woman sitting on a bench outside with the younger woman comforting as the older woman holds her hand to her chest

Can You Die from Broken Heart Syndrome?

Death from broken heart syndrome is very rare, occurring in only 1% of cases. Most people make a full recovery within a month and have no long-term heart damage. Thankfully, the condition is completely reversible for 99% of cases.

What Do I Do If I See a Friend or Family Member Exhibiting Symptoms?

If you are with a friend or family member following the loss of a loved one, pay attention if they complain of chest pain, shortness of breath, or dizziness. If the person already has a heart condition, then it may be a heart attack. However, if there’s no history of heart disease, it could very well be broken heart syndrome. Only the doctor can give you a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

Broken heart syndrome - older man visiting with his doctor, who is listening to his patient's heart with a stethoscope

Quick FAQ

Q: Can everyday stress cause broken heart syndrome?

A: According to what doctors currently know, the syndrome only occurs suddenly and resolves quickly. If you have chronic chest pains or shortness of breath, talk to your doctor to see what else may be happening with your health.

Q: Are there different types of broken heart syndrome?

A: Yes, there are 4 different types – apical, mid-ventricular, basal, and focal. It all depends on which section of the heart gets stunned, though apical is most common. Apical refers to the lower half of the heart.

Q: Can you prevent broken heart syndrome?

A: To lower your potential risk, you can learn stress management and problem-solving techniques that will help you decrease your overall physical and emotional stress. You could journal, meditate, exercise, take a warm bath, get plenty of sleep, or do something else to relax. These practices are good during any season of life, not just stressful ones.

Hopefully you will never encounter broken heart syndrome, but if you do, you now know what it is and the best way to help a friend or family member through it. Be safe out there!

Woman with brown hair wearing a white sweater sitting down, reading messages on phone

How to Offer Condolences Via Text or DM

By Grief/Loss, Technology and Grief

In today’s world, we’re more connected than ever, and it’s more common to text message or direct message a friend than to call them. This is especially true now that we’re connected online to friends who live all across the country and the world. With this change in social habits, it’s much more acceptable to offer condolences through text or online message. But what do you say and what etiquette rules should you follow?

Basic Etiquette for Offering Condolences

Woman with brown hair wearing a white sweater sitting down, reading messages on phone

Say something

It’s human nature to avoid situations that feel difficult or uncomfortable. But just because something is uncomfortable does not mean it shouldn’t be done. If you want someone to feel cared for after a loved one’s death, at least send them a quick message acknowledging their loss and how they are in your thoughts.

Shorter is better

Have you ever gotten a really long text and thought, “I’ll read this later?” With texts and direct messages, there’s no need to write a lot. People don’t expect your message to be long, and honestly, they may skip it if it’s too long. After all, there are a lot of details and emotions vying for their attention. Instead, keep it short but kind and compassionate.

Personalize your message

No matter what you decide to write, make your words as personal as possible. If you knew the person who has died, offer kind words about them or share a short memory. On the other hand, if you didn’t know them personally, mention that you know how much they meant to the family. Even a small detail can add just the right personal touch.

Man leaning against wall outside as he reads messages on his cell phone

Don’t compare griefs

You may be tempted to offer comfort by saying you understand what they are going through but don’t do it. You may be able to relate, but everyone grieves differently and uniquely. No two grief journeys are the same and shouldn’t be treated as such. If appropriate, share a valuable lesson you’ve learned in your own grief journey while still acknowledging, “I know your loss is so different from mine.”

Keep it classy

Some people are complicated and not all relationships are healthy. And while you may secretly be thinking, “Ding, dong, the witch is dead,” don’t write that in your condolence text. Even if the relationship was flawed and damaged, your grieving friend is likely experiencing some conflicting emotions. Relief that the stressful relationship is over, but also sadness that it now never has a chance to get better. Be sensitive in the early days and take your cues from the grieving person.

Follow-up with a handwritten card or a sympathy gift (optional)

In some situations, offering condolences via text or direct message is the best thing to do. However, in some cases, it’s just the beginning of the condolence process. If you feel led, don’t be afraid to follow-up your text with a handwritten card, a sympathy gift, an offer of help, or attendance at the funeral service. All of these are good ways to offer your support to a grieving friend or family member.

Focus on a man's hands as he holds his smartphone and reads his text messages

When Not to Text

While texting is often just fine, there are some instances when a text message isn’t the best option. You will need to use discretion and wisdom. If you regularly communicate with the person through text, then send them a text. If you use direct message on Facebook, Instagram, or some other social media platform, send the message there instead. And if you typically talk on the phone, give them a call and leave a voicemail.

And if the grieving person has posted a memorial or announcement on their social media channels (find more etiquette tips here), you can also post your condolence message directly to that post. Just make sure it doesn’t share personal details that are better left in a private message.

Now that we’ve reviewed some basic etiquette for writing condolence texts and online messages, let’s review some samples that will help you craft the perfect condolence.

Comforting Texts for Any Loss

  • I heard about [name] and want you to know I’m thinking of you, praying for you, and grieving with you.
  • I’m so sorry to hear about [name]. I just wanted to share my favorite photo of [name] with you. [She/He] had a great smile and will be so missed!
  • God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1). Thinking of you, dear friend!
  • Although we are miles apart, my heart and spirit are with you right now. I’m so sorry for your loss.
  • I was deeply saddened to hear of your [mom’s, dad’s, grandfather’s] passing. [She/He] was such a great inspiration to me. Please let me know how I can help you during this difficult time.
  • Please accept my heartfelt condolences to you and your family on your [uncle’s, cousin’s, brother’s] death. I’m sure that [his/her] memory will forever live on in your hearts.
  • My deepest sympathies go out to you, my friend. May you find comfort and peace during this difficult time. Know that I’m here for you.
  • I was so sad to hear about your loss. I’m thinking of you and wishing you strength through this difficult time.
  • I’ll always remember [name’s] big heart and contagious smile. I’m praying for you and your family.

Young woman standing outside, reading smartphone messages with a gentle smile on her face

  • My heart aches for you and your loved ones right now. I can’t imagine what you’re feeling, but you are in my heart and thoughts.
  • I don’t really know what to say, except that I’m sending all my love your way. I’m so sorry for your loss.
  • My heart hurts for what you’re going through. I’m praying for you and your family.
  • I just heard about your beautiful [mother, sister, grandmother]. I’m so sorry this has happened, and I am wishing your family peace and strength during this time.
  • I’m so sorry to hear of your loss. I am humbled and honored to have met [name]. [She/He] was such a beautiful soul and will be deeply missed by many.
  • I’ll never forget [name’s] kindness, compassion, and contagious laughter [change to other descriptors, as needed]. May you find comfort in the knowledge that [she/he] brought light and goodness everything [he/she] went. I’m so sorry for your loss.
  • I’m not sure what the right thing to say is, but I’m truly sorry for your loss. I hope you know how much you mean to me and my family. We’re here for you.
  • Don’t worry about responding…I just wanted you to know how sorry I am to hear about [name]. I’m here for you anytime you need me.

Older man standing in his kitchen at home, reading messages on his phone

Comforting Texts with an Offer of Support

  • No words can describe how sorry I am for your loss. Can I do anything for you?
  • I wish I could take away your pain. Please know, I’m here for you and want to be a support in whatever way you need. Can I run errands for you or pick up dinner?
  • I heard about your [brother, sister, friend]. I’m so sorry for your loss. I’d love to check in with you and see how you’re doing in a few days. Can I call on [day]?
  • Hi, friend. You may need some space right now, but I wanted to say how sorry I am to hear about the loss of your [dad, brother, friend]. I’m thinking of you, and when you’re ready, I’m here to listen and support you.
  • I am heartbroken to hear about [name’s] passing. I cannot begin to imagine how you are feeling right now, but please know that you are in my thoughts and prayers. Can I drop off dinner or run any errands for you?
  • No words can take away the grief that you feel. Even so, I want to say that I love you, and I’m here for you. Can I stop by sometime to give you a hug or drop off a meal?
  • I heard about [name’s] passing, and I’m so sorry I can’t be with you in person. My thoughts are never far from you during this time. Please let me know if you’d like to chat on the phone or even hop on a video call. I’m here for you.
  • I just heard about [name]. I know the two of you were close, and I’m so sorry that this happened. Is there anything I can do for you? I’m here to talk, meet up, run errands – whatever you need.
  • I’m so sorry that you’re going through this, but please know, you’re not alone. Just say the word, and I’ll be at your house right away.

Mature woman sitting on her couch at home as she reads messages on her smartphone

No Response? That’s Okay

Hopefully these examples will give you inspiration for creating a personalized text message or direct message that comes straight from your heart. If you don’t receive a response to your text, don’t let that hurt your feelings. Your grieving friend has a lot going on and responding to texts is likely low on the list of priorities. Instead, continue to offer support and kindness. If you can, attend the funeral or send a follow-up text/message in a few days. You could say, “I’ve been thinking about you and wanted to check in. How are you? Can I help you in any way?”

During times of grief and loss, we all need to know that our friends and family love and support us. Offering a short condolence may feel hard in the moment, but it will go a long way to making the grieving person feel loved and seen.

6 Ways to Say Thank You to a Funeral Home

By Explore Options, Grief/Loss, Living Well

During a time of loss, it’s common to feel lost, overwhelmed, and a little anxious. When the funeral home steps into your grief and provides top-quality care and compassionate service, it can feel like a soothing balm to an aching heart. You don’t have to do this alone – there are people to help. When you’ve received excellent service from a funeral home, you might want to thank them personally, but what can you do? Let’s talk about 6 simple ways you can express your gratitude to the funeral directors and staff members who have made a difficult time a little bit easier.

Write a thank you card

View from above of woman sitting at table writing a thank you note with coffee and cell phone nearby

One of the simplest and most touching ways you can say thank you is through a handwritten note. By taking time to thoughtfully select a card and add your own sentiments to it, you can really make the funeral home staff feel good about the work they have done. Plus, your words affirm that their role was important to your grief journey and that they really did help you during a time of loss. That’s what matters most – knowing they took care of you well!

Leave a Google review

View of cell phone open to review site with person about to submit 5-star review

If you prefer typing to handwriting, then leaving a Google review would be an excellent way to thank a funeral home. Not only will they have a chance to read your words of gratitude, others in the community will also see what you have rated the funeral home. In a time when reviews help us choose many services, leaving a positive review can really help the funeral home gain credibility in the community and become a resource for more area families during times of grief and loss. If you aren’t sure how to leave a Google review, ask the funeral home or check out this how-to guide.

Give the gift of food

Dad and daughter making homemade muffins in kitchen

Who doesn’t love good food? Whether it’s a box of donuts or muffins, an edible arrangement or Starbucks coffee traveler, homemade cookies or zucchini bread, or even a fully catered meal from the local breakfast joint, there are so many ways to say thank you with food. Simply choose an option that’s easy and meaningful to you and include a note. Funeral home staff work long hours and take few breaks, so you can bet that anything you drop off will be eaten and fully enjoyed!

Sign up for a video testimonial

Foreground with camera on tripod with blurred background of woman leaving a review

Many funeral homes are expanding their technological offerings. For some funeral homes, that means spreading the word about their services through video. If you would like to help the funeral home, consider signing up to give a personal testimonial. Think of it like a review but recorded! When other families hear your story, they will be even more comfortable choosing the funeral home for their own funeral care needs, when the time comes.

Offer a hug or handshake

Two men shaking hands warmly

For those of you who are huggers, feel free to give one to your funeral director and other staff members. They know how hard it is to lose a loved one and have personally experienced the roller coaster of emotions you’ve been through. Knowing that they made a difference in your life is all the thanks they need. And a hug speaks volumes! Of course, if you aren’t a hugger, no problem. Shake a hand or pat a shoulder instead. Pairing your words of gratitude with a small physical expression makes an impact!

Make a handmade gift

One person giving a wrapped gift to another person

Whether you love to knit, crochet, paint, woodwork, or do something else entirely, you can use your creativity to thank the funeral home staff. Knit scarves. Crochet beanies. Paint a mini canvas. Whittle figurines or an entire chess set. You can give a handmade gift to each individual person, or you can create something that will grace the funeral home as a whole, like a handmade pillow for a chair or couch. No matter what you love making, you can use your talent to say thank you.

Feel free to take these suggestions and run with them (one or even all of them). However, remember that you aren’t limited to these ideas. They are a starting place for your own creativity and imagination. And really, anything you do will touch the hearts of the funeral home staff – you can count on it!

mother comforting her teen daughter

How to Help a Teenager Navigate Suicide Loss

By Grief/Loss, Loss from Suicide

Losing a loved one is hard, and losing someone to suicide can be even more challenging. Suicide is often stigmatized by society, and mourners must wrestle with questions they’ll likely never know the answer to. These questions can be especially difficult for teenagers, who are already in the process of defining their own identities and understanding of the world.

Unfortunately, suicide is becoming more and more common. In 2021, almost 50,000 people died from suicide, and 1.7 million adults attempted suicide. Teenagers are especially susceptible to suicide – about 1 out of every 10 high school students has attempted suicide and around 20% of high school students have contemplated suicide. The problem continues to grow, which is why it’s so important to support your teen when they lose someone – whether a family member, a friend, or a classmate – to suicide.

Losing someone they love to suicide can shake a teenager’s beliefs and leave them confused and torn. They may act out, withdraw from you or their friends, or become depressed. Going to the funeral of the person who died can be a great place to start, but your teen needs care and support throughout the days, months, and even years to come. You may not know how to help them, especially if you are also grieving, so here are five tips for how you can support your teenager during this difficult time.

Create a safe space

mother comforting her teen daughter

The suicide of a loved one can cause mourners to feel many different emotions – sadness, guilt, anger, fear, or even relief if the person was suffering. Both you and your teenager need to know that there is no right way to feel when grieving the loss of a loved one to suicide. Let your teenager know they can talk to you about their emotions without fear of judgment.

A great way to help your teenager feel comfortable exploring their grief with you is by asking them how you can support them. Don’t assume that your teenager needs the same things you do. Your teenager may already know how you can support them while they’re grieving but may not know how to ask for it. Maybe they want to sit and talk, read and discuss a book about grief, or go out and enjoy an activity with you to take their mind off their grief. By asking them how you can help them – and then following through – you can open doors of communication and create a safe space for them to ask questions, explore their grief, and cope in a healthy way.

As you talk with your teenager, don’t avoid the topic of suicide. Suicide carries a lot of stigma, and talking about suicide openly and gently will help your teenager feel safe enough to ask you the questions that are likely already on their mind. However, do avoid talking about graphic details of the suicide or placing blame on anyone for the suicide; instead, focus on positive conversations with your teenager about how you can support each other now.

Listen

mother listening to her daughter

When your teenager does open up to you, stop and listen. Your first instinct may be to offer suggestions, fix problems, or offer encouragement, but you must first take time to listen and understand your teenager. Listen without judgment, asking questions when appropriate. Your teenager may struggle with feelings you disagree with – like blaming themselves for their loved one’s death or questioning their beliefs – but they don’t need a lecture. Instead, they need you to listen, understand, and empathize with them.

Some teenagers may withdraw or avoid the topic of death, grief, or suicide completely. You can listen to them by respecting their wishes while leaving the door for conversation open. You could ask them questions gently, check in with them, and be available when they’re ready to open up. Many teenagers want to grieve with their friends, especially if the person who died was one of their peers. You may feel left out, but as long as your teenager gets support from somewhere, respecting their choice is a good idea.

Keep your routine – but be flexible

calendar and routine

The suicide of a loved one can shake mourners to their core. Even if your teenager didn’t know the person who died by suicide very well, their world might feel like it’s crumbling around them. Sticking to their usual routine can help them find a sense of normalcy during a time of upheaval. In addition, it may be easier for teens to practice self-care when sticking to their usual routine.

But even as you try to keep your routine going, allow for flexibility. Some days, your teenager may not feel up to going to basketball practice or choir rehearsal. They may need to take a mental health day off from school or extracurricular activities. Alternatively, your teenager may want to completely change their routine – and that’s okay, too. Listen to their needs and help them develop a routine that will fit their needs as they begin their grief journey.

Include them

parents comforting teenage son

Teenagers are still exploring what grieving a loss looks like, and by including them in your own grieving process, you can show them what healthy grieving looks like. You may be tempted to bottle up your emotions and stay strong for them, but don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. Your teenager will likely appreciate your openness about your emotions and feel safer expressing their own.

You can also involve your teenager by letting them come up with ideas for honoring the memory of the person who died. For example, if your teen likes to paint, draw, or write, they may want to make something special to be displayed or read at the funeral. If your teen was on a team or in a club with the person who died, they could host a special meeting for everyone to share stories and grieve together. If your teenager is interested, allow them to come up with an idea to remember the person who died and help them make it a reality.

Seek outside support

counselor helping a teenage boy

Grief, especially from suicide loss, can be difficult for teens to navigate on their own. Plus, the suicide of a fellow teenager can lead to copycat suicides. While these aren’t extremely common, suicides of close friends, deaths of people the teen identifies with, or suicides that get a lot of media attention can lead to clusters of similar suicides. If you notice that your teen is struggling with depression, suicidal thoughts, or other risk factors, you may want to consider helping your teen sign up for professional support. Even if your teenager doesn’t seem to be at risk and just needs extra support, you can talk to them about the possibility of meeting with a grief support therapist.

You can also explore grief support groups in your area. Grief support groups can help your teen feel less alone since they will hear about others’ experiences. However, if your teen begins attending a grief support group, check with them about their experience. Grief support groups are all different, and instead of being comforted, your teenager may feel overwhelmed by hearing everyone’s stories.

During this difficult time, it’s important for your teen to know you are there to support them. As you grieve together, help them feel safe and comfortable asking questions. Their grief and reaction to the suicide may look different than yours, and that’s okay. Accept their feelings without judgment and let them know you’re there to walk alongside them and support them, no matter what.

focus on two women attending a grief support group, one older and one younger

7 Benefits of Joining a Grief Support Group

By Grief/Loss

After the death of someone you love, it’s hard to come to grips with your new reality. Figuring out how to move forward, how to do life, without their presence can be both physically exhausting and emotionally overwhelming. If you are struggling with the emotions of grief, then it might be time to consider joining a grief support group.

The idea of joining a grief support group might feel uncomfortable, especially if 1) you’re an introverted person, 2) you’ve never done it before, or 3) you don’t like admitting that you need help. But really, grief support groups come in all shapes and sizes. You can choose a group that focuses on a wide range of grief types or select a group that has a narrower focus (spouse loss, child loss, suicide loss, etc.). This way, you will journey with other people going through a similar type of loss. Also, you can choose a group similar in age to yourself or one that spans generations.

No matter which type of group you choose, there are many benefits to attending a grief support group. Let’s discuss seven of those benefits together.

Grief support group of senior adults, sitting in circle

7 Benefits of Joining a Grief Support Group

By joining a grief support group, you can:

1. Build connections and find a sense of community

Perhaps the biggest benefit to joining a support group is finding a community you can be vulnerable with. Depending on your life and circumstances, it might be hard to open up with friends or family members. With a grief support group, you are all there for the same reason – to process your grief and move toward healing and reconciliation. There’s freedom in opening up to people who don’t inform your everyday life and who are solely interested in helping you heal. And if friendships arise from the group, all the better. You have advocates for your continued grief journey.

2. Realize you’re not alone

By nature, grief can be isolating. We all process loss in different ways, and the voice in your mind tries to convince you that you’re absolutely alone. That you’re the only person dealing with these complicated feelings. When you join a grief support group, it quickly becomes clear that you aren’t alone. Your feelings are legitimate, valid, and normal. But most of all – there are other people who understand what you’ve experienced and are figuring out how to deal with it, too.

Grief support group, focus on young man who is sharing and has his hands placed over his heart

3. Positively impact your mental health

In many ways, it’s easier to keep our feelings to ourselves, but that’s often not the best choice for good mental health. Getting things off your chest has a cathartic effect. Being open, sharing what’s going on inside, dealing with your emotions – these are all proven ways to deal with stress and improve mental health. In a recent study, it was determined that grief support groups can even help reduce depressive symptoms after loss.

4. Find hope and foster personal resilience

When you’re in the depths of strong emotions, like sadness or anger, it’s hard to see your way through. It may feel like this is just your new norm, and there’s nothing you can do about it. In a grief support group, you will find people who are at various stages of the grief journey. Interacting with people who are further along the grief journey can instill a sense of hope and inspire your own resilience. There is a better future ahead as you actively work through your feelings of grief.

Two people sitting together, clasping hands in comfort, focus on hands and torsos

5. See the reality of the grieving process

If this is the first big loss you’ve suffered, then your own feelings may take you by surprise. Is it normal to feel this way? Should I feel this sad or this angry or this lost? In a grief support group, you see people at various stages of grief. They will showcase a wide range of emotions and help you normalize your own feelings. Grief is up and down, slow and messy, strong today and quiet tomorrow. Some people will share their story freely while others will sit back and only listen. Every person processes differently. No matter where you’re at on the spectrum, it’s okay and it’s normal.

6. Discover a safe space to express yourself

Within a grief support group, there’s a commitment to listen, encourage, and help each other. This sense of commitment and camaraderie creates a unique opportunity to be real. Surrounded by a group of hurting people, you don’t have to hide your own hurt. Instead, you can open up. Create common bonds with the people around you. Express what’s going on in your own heart and mind freely. This is a safe space – a place where you won’t be judged, a place where you can find validation and encouragement.

focus on two women attending a grief support group, one older and one younger

7. Learn from the wisdom of others

No matter how many times you’ve experienced loss, every death hits different. Because of that, you may feel even more lost as to how to process your feelings. In a grief support group, you have access to a wealth of knowledge and experience. You will hear about coping skills that are new to you. You may learn more about how the mind and the body react to grief. With the valuable insights and tools you learn, you can create daily practices that will help you manage your own grief and move toward healing.

Should I Attend Online or In Person?

Ultimately, the decision between online and in person depends on either your preference or what’s available in your area.

With an online group, you can join from the comfort of your home and choose what level of involvement you want. Plus, an online group would be an excellent option for those who are homebound or have responsibilities that prevent them from attending in person.

With an in-person group, you can still choose your level of involvement, but you also have the option to go deeper. For instance, a few people may want to grab coffee or dinner after a group session. Plus, if you feel a connection to someone’s story, you have the option to catch them after class for a one-on-one conversation. That’s not easily possible with online groups.

Simply weigh the pros and cons. Evaluate your personal circumstances. Then, choose what works best for you.

Grief support group circle of five people, image looking down at the group with focus on their hands and arms

What if a Grief Support Group Isn’t Right for Me?

While grief support groups help thousands of people every year, it’s not the best fit for everyone, and that’s okay. If you are feeling overwhelmed, discouraged, out of place, or unwanted, try going to one-on-one grief counseling first. After you have a better grip on your own grief, you can then transition to a grief support group your counselor recommends.

Now that you understand the many benefits of grief support groups, it’s time to decide whether or not to visit groups in your area. Contact your local funeral home, a church, a local grief counselor’s office, or go online to familiarize yourself with the grief resources available locally. Then, choose one that best fits your age, location, or type of loss and find the supportive encouragement you need for the grief journey ahead.

graves with bright red and pink flowers

Cemetery Etiquette: 6 Tips for Visiting a Cemetery

By Cemeteries, Grief/Loss, Memorial

Visiting your loved one’s grave can be an important part of your grief journey – it can help you process your loss and reflect on memories of your loved one. But visiting a cemetery can be intimidating, especially if you’re unfamiliar with cemetery etiquette. Whether you’re going to the cemetery by yourself or with others, it’s important to be considerate of those around you. By following the 6 tips below, you can show respect to other mourners, the groundskeepers, and those buried in the cemetery.

Drive with care

person driving a car

When driving through a cemetery, drive slower and more cautiously than you typically would. To avoid accidentally driving over a grave or monument, stay on the roadways and off the grass, even when parking, if there’s enough room for another car to pass. Also, follow the cemetery’s posted speed limit – if there are no signs, driving 10 mph or slower is recommended.

Remember that people walking in the cemetery may be grieving and not paying attention to their surroundings. Be cautious and watch for people crossing your path. If you’re listening to music in your car, keep the volume low while driving through the cemetery.

Respect graves and monuments

headstone for a mother with pink flowers on it

Out of respect for both the deceased in the cemetery and their loved ones, avoid touching monuments or stepping on graves. Depending on how old the cemetery you’re visiting is, some of the monuments may be decades or even centuries old and could be fragile and crumbling. While walking through some cemeteries, it can be difficult to tell where it’s okay to step. Try to follow the path made by the headstones, and don’t step over or on headstones or monuments.

Additionally, you should never remove anything left by another person at a grave. Flowers, coins, and decorations all have special meaning to the person who placed the items, and removing these personal items can cause more grief for a loved one. Coins may seem out of place, but they often have specific meanings, especially when placed on a veteran’s grave, so leave them where they are.

Be considerate of other mourners

Person standing in front of a grave

People visiting a cemetery are likely visiting a deceased loved one and may be overwhelmed with emotion, praying, or spending time in contemplation. To respect their needs, keep your speaking volume low and avoid talking on the phone or playing loud music. Keep your phone on vibrate or silent to keep distractions at a minimum.

Many people who are visiting a loved one’s grave don’t wish to speak with others. If you are nearby or passing them, it’s okay to smile or nod at them, but don’t try to start a conversation unless they seem like they want or need someone to talk to. Likewise, if a funeral or graveside service is going on while you visit, steer clear and leave them plenty of room. It’s also inappropriate to take photos of someone else’s funeral or of someone who is visiting a grave.

Keep an eye on children and pets

Parent holding a child's hand in a cemetery

Bringing your child to a loved one’s grave can benefit them by helping them come to terms with the death and learning about their own emotions and grief. But before you bring your child to a cemetery, speak to them about how to behave. They’ll need to be relatively quiet and respectful of others, and they shouldn’t run around the cemetery. Ensure your child knows the rules and can follow them before bringing them with you.

Some cemeteries allow owners to bring their pets, while others only allow service dogs. If your cemetery does allow pets, keep them on a leash at all times. You should also be respectful of other mourners. Not everyone likes animals, and an excitable dog may not be a welcome visitor for some people. Even more importantly, make sure you clean up after your pet. You don’t want to leave an unwelcome surprise for someone visiting their loved one!

Clean up after yourself

Person picking up an empty water bottle

No one wants to visit their loved one in the cemetery and find trash on the grave. Out of respect for other visitors and the groundskeepers, don’t litter and pick up any trash you see. If your cemetery doesn’t have a trash can, you can take the trash back with you – and next time you visit, bring a bag to put trash in.

It’s also a good idea to avoid leaving highly breakable items. Glass or ceramic vases and jars are beautiful, but bad weather or nighttime critters may knock over the items. Leaving food at a grave can also attract ants, bugs, and critters, so many cemeteries recommend that you not leave food at a grave.

Learn the cemetery’s specific rules

graves with bright red and pink flowers

As mentioned above, different cemeteries have their own rules, so learn your cemetery’s regulations before you go. One way to determine the cemetery’s rules is to check their website or call the office. If you can’t find any information online, many cemeteries also have a sign near the entrance with their rules. Most cemeteries are also only open at certain times, so please respect your cemetery’s hours.

Visiting a cemetery can be intimidating at first, but spending time at your loved one’s grave can help you in your grief journey. During your visit, remember that everyone grieves differently. You may find it helpful to speak out loud to your loved one, pray, cry, or simply stay silent and ponder. As long as you are respectful of both the deceased around you and other mourners, do what will help you in your grief journey.

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