Culture of Caring

How To Talk About Loss

If you are a teacher or principal who works in a school, chances are that a family or staff member will suffer the loss of a child. No matter what the cause, it’s always hard to talk about death. It’s painful and uncomfortable. But is it different when someone you know loses a child to suicide? What do you say to them?

Not things like this:

“It was a selfish act. Don’t blame yourself.”

“He was a coward. He chose the easy way out. That’s how he solved his problems.”

“Don’t worry. Just get over it. You’ll feel better soon.”

“Sorry for your loss. She’s in a better place now.”

“How did you miss the signs?”

“How did it happen?”

“It was a shameful thing to do. We will not speak of it again. Ever.”

The loss of a child is difficult for any parent. Everyone grieves differently, but one emotion they share is love. They love their child, in life and in death. If you want to comfort a parent who has lost a child to suicide, forget about the way they died. Talk about your memories about that child and share the positive stories and experiences. Most parents really do like to talk about their children, whether they are still on the planet or not.

Sometimes it helps to get ideas from others who have been there. 12 Things Parents Who Lost a Child to Suicide Wish Others Understood.

A Culture of Caring: A Suicide Prevention Guide for Schools (K-12) was created as a resource for educators who want to know how to get started and what steps to take to create a suicide prevention plan that will work for their schools and districts. It is written from my perspective as a school principal and survivor of suicide loss, not an expert in psychology or counseling. I hope that any teacher, school counselor, psychologist, principal, or district administrator can pick up this book, flip to a chapter, and easily find helpful answers to the questions they are likely to have about what schools can do to prevent suicide.

Theodora Schiro