Children Need Honest, Age-Appropriate Information

A recent Open to Hope Radio interview -- "Helping Families Deal with Suicide" -- features Diana Sands of the Bereaved by Suicide Centre for Intense Grief in Australia.

Sands suggests that "there is no one correct way" to talk children about suicide loss and that "it's a process, not an event."

This is a conversation you will have with your child for the rest of your life ... Research would suggest that it's important to provide honest, age-appropriate explanations about what has happened.

Sands' recent book and DVD to help children cope with suicide loss, Red Chocolate Elephants: For Children Bereaved by Suicide, is based on her extensive work with children in Australia. Sands' theory on suicide grief, the tripartite model of suicide bereavement, centers around the role of story in the grieving process:

The model is not just focused on the way the bereaved story their grief, but also importantly on the effect of suicide bereavement on the griever's relationships. The model identifies opportunities for relational repair for the grieving person's sense of self, relationships with others and with the deceased.

Resources available from SAVE on helping children after a suicide include "What to Tell Children," which suggests several additional books on the topic, and a complete section on children's grief in "Coping with the Loss of a Friend or Loved One."