Family Relationships

#889 Talking to Your Kids About a Suicide

Published: 14 Nov 2023
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*Content warning: mature themes - listener discretion advised*

How do you talk to your kids when they are touched by the profound loss of a loved one through a suicide? These hard conversations must be had openly with your children - with kindness, compassion, and empathy. Your job is NOT to tell them everything, but to answer their questions honestly, in an age-appropriate way. 


Topics in this episode:

  • Protecting children from pain
  • Limited evidence for how to have these conversations
  • Keep your reactions level
  • National Centre for Childhood Grief
  • Keep the conversation age/developmentally appropriate
    • Keep it simple
    • Operate on the principle of 'the fire hose'
    • Answer questions honestly (to the degree with which they are curious) - the more general you can be, the more protected your child will be.
    • Offer empathy
    • Talking helps to dispel misinformation and stigma and creates a safe space to ask questions.
    • Encourage questions about anything, and at any time.
    • Ensure they understand what "dead" means. Give concrete answers, not idioms or euphemisms.
    • Expect and accept a range of emotions (and behaviours!) from your child, which will change daily. Let them feel safe to let it all out.


Picture Books for Helping Children Navigate Grief

  • Elergy for an Elephant by Ryan Abramowitz. A healing and hopeful picture book crafted as a therapeutic resource for readers (aged 7+) who have lost loved ones, and those communities and caretakers supporting them through their mourning.
  • Death Is Stupid by Anastasia Higginbotham. Death Is Stupid is an invaluable tool for discussing death, exploring grief, and honoring the life of our loved ones.
  • Luna's Red Hat by Emmi Smid. This beautifully illustrated storybook is designed as a tool to be read with children aged 6+ who have experienced the loss of a loved one by suicide.
  • Red Chocolate Elephants by Diana C. Sands. An activity book and DVD resource for children bereaved by suicide. In a world where children are often forgotten mourners, this unique combination of text, pictures, and voices - all in the words of bereaved children themselves - will be a treasured safe haven for young people to hear their fears, questions, and difficulties put into words by other children just like them.
  • Forever Connected by Jessica Correnti. Parents and caregivers often are at a loss for words when trying to support their grieving children. They may wonder what to say or do to help their child process and cope with the heartbreaking reality of their family structure. Forever Connected allows for a beautiful start to those difficult conversations at home, giving families the tools and language to help bereaved siblings process death, their grief, and their love and connection with their sibling. 


Free printable books to support children and teens after suicide

From StandBySupport.com - Australia’s leading suicide postvention program dedicated to assisting people and communities bereaved or impacted by suicide.

A Book Just For Me A grief journal for children under 12 – activities include colouring in and ways to help children identify their feelings .

"My Grief Journal" for Grieving Teens This is a printable PDF, a grief journal specifically designed for teens grieving the death of a loved one by suicide.


For help:


In Memory of Logan - Happy Families

Find us on Facebook at Dr Justin Coulson's Happy Families

Email us your questions and comments at podcasts@happyfamilies.com.au



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