My child’s best friend recently killed themself and I’m not sure what to say to my son.

- User Submitted

First of all, my heart goes out to you and your entire family. Your son especially and your son's friends family. There's nothing as painful as loss. Suicide in and of itself is very painful.

I think the first thing is to listen. "How are you doing? As a parent, I don't even know what to say other than I love you and I'm concerned, this loss, how is it influencing you? What's it like for you right now?"

Because we also know that there is a tendency for peers to feel guilt, to feel shame, "I should have reached out, I should have done this."

I think there is a platform of being able to say "these are some common things that friends can feel, like I should've been more, why didn't I? Are you feeling those?"

In some ways you're trying to get your child to open up. Have you had suicidal thoughts? These are the types of questions that we can't be afraid to ask, because we know others start to feel and wonder "can that be me?" If they're already down, that it can have a contagious type of a response. Don't be afraid to ask your child very directly "have you felt those feelings? And, if you ever feel those, would you please come to me because I love you. I want to be a support and you matter to me, you matter."

Get information, listen as much as you can. Right now it's important to periodically follow up. How are you feeling? How are you doing? If you see them having difficult emotions, don't be hesitant to ask difficult questions and have hard conversations. If you can get your child to talk, it will be one of the more important things that you can do for him right now.

If you see things that are really concerning, don't be afraid to get a professional therapist for your child to talk with somebody. A school counselor would be good as well so your son doesn't feel alone in those feelings.

Anything you want to add, jenna?

Absolutely. My heart also goes out to you mom and dad, and this child, and the whole community, a suicide in a peer group in a community as is truly a capital T trauma for everyone involved.

One thing I would add from the theoretical perspective that I bring clinically, is that we can really be helpful in how we name these parts of people that engage in destructive behavior. It is helpful to articulate for the child, this is not all of who your friend was. This was a suicidal part who was trying to help him with pain.

I think that can be such a helpful way to separate out the part of the child that took their life by suicide from the whole child.

To really reinforce that the positive aspects of that relationship are still valid and still true. Help that pain that are much more effective.

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