Hope and Healing: A Practical Guide for Survivors of Suicide, Family and Friends

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This is a practical guide to help you through… the first few moments
then the first few hours
then the first few days
then the first few years
…after the suicide of someone you love.

This guide has been written with the help of many suicide survivors and the health professionals who work with them. We hope it will help you through this difficult time. Please share it with others who may benefit from the information. The guide focuses on the practical matters that survivors need to deal with after a suicide.

This resource was developed by the Suicide Response Initiative of the Calgary Health Region, with support from the Alberta Mental Health Board.  This resource has been adapted by the Centre for Applied Research in Mental Health and Addiction (CARMHA; www.carmha.ca), Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University.

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After a Suicide: A Practical and Personal Guide for Survivors of Suicide Loss

Download Free:  After A Suicide A Practical and Personal Guide For Survivors of Suicide Loss

This handbook was written to help you through the death by suicide of your loved one. It contains both practical and personal information, as well as a list of books, websites and support groups, that we hope will help you through your grief. Different parts of this resource may be of help to you at different times.

Immediately after a death by suicide, there are many practical matters that families will need to attend to and questions they might have about what to do. This resource starts with addressing these practical matters. Grief associated with a death by suicide can be complicated, and also very different to what people experience following death by other causes. Immediately after a suicide death, people are often in shock and unable to describe or explain their feelings or make meaning of what has happened. You may need time before you feel ready to examine what has happened, how it has affected you, what it all means, and what you need in order to begin healing.

Read the more personal information on suicide grief in this handbook when you are ready. Understanding and exploring your own thoughts and feelings might feel scary, but it is an important and necessary part of healing. You and only you will know when you are ready. As you read this, you may not even be aware that the process of healing has already begun. Remember, you are not alone.

Klinic Community Health Centre and the “After a Suicide” Handbook Advisory Committee is indebted to the Alberta Health Services, Calgary Health Region, for sharing their resource guide “Survivor of Suicide Handbook”, which helped inform this document.

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A Toolkit For Schools

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After a Suicide: A Toolkit for Schools addresses the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention: Increase the proportion of school districts and private school associations with evidence-based programs designed to address serious childhood and adolescent distress and prevent suicide.

Suicide in a school community is tremendously sad, often unexpected, and can leave a school with many uncertainties about what to do next. Faced with students struggling to cope and a community struggling to respond, schools need reliable information, practical tools, and pragmatic guidance.

This toolkit was created to help schools determine what to do in the aftermath of a suicide death, and how and when to do it.  It is a highly practical resource for schools facing real-time crises. While designed specifically to address the aftermath of suicide, schools will find it useful following other deaths as well.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) and the Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC), two of the nation’s leading suicide prevention organizations, have collaborated to produce this toolkit to assist schools in the aftermath of a suicide (or other death) in the school community.  

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A Guide for Early Responders Supporting Survivors Bereaved by Suicide

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This resource is intended primarily for Early Responders such as: Police, Ambulance, Firefighters, Emergency Personnel, Health Care Providers, Spiritual Care Providers, Medical Investigators, and Funeral Directors who all have close and often immediate contact with survivors bereaved by a suicide loss. However, other service providers may also find this information helpful in the work they do.

This guide offers information about suicide loss and will likely validate and enhance the many helpful things early responders already do.  The guide may also offer new insights and guidance on suicide alertness highlighting prevention and intervention resources available, since we know that survivors may be at greater risk of suicide as well.

In supporting survivors bereaved by suicide first responders have a vital and influential role. Working together we can lessen the impact of this trauma, reduce stigma and support survivors in their process of healing and recovery.

Developed by the Winnipeg Suicide Prevention Network in partnership with the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention (CASP). This guide was adapted from “Supporting Survivors of Suicide Loss, A Guide for Funeral Directors” .

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For Funeral Directors:  Supporting Survivors of Suicide Loss

Funeral Director Guides by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration www.samhsa.gov

Funeral directors and the funeral services industry serve as a vital line of first response to those impacted by the profound and crippling effects of suicide loss.

That’s because suicide claims 80 percent more lives each year in our country than homicide. These 32,000 self-inflicted deaths leave behind much more. Research shows that those closest to someone who dies by suicide are themselves vulnerable to self-harm through substance use disorders and violence that can be self-inflicted—and culminate in suicide (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2009).

Because of its profound impact on our nation and its citizens, suicide has recently been identified as a major public health threat, much like diabetes or heart disease. And in that vein, it has received significant attention at the federal level, culminating in the 2001 National Strategy for Suicide Prevention issued by the U.S. Surgeon General.

Our National Strategy positions suicide as it should be—a tragedy that can be prevented in many cases. Lives can be saved if the right people, equipped with the right knowledge, intervene at the right time.

This is where funeral directors come into play. In your close role with survivors of suicide loss in the immediate aftermath, you play a vital and powerful role. And in partnership with other early responders, including clergy and law enforcement, you can lessen the leveling blow that families are dealt when they lose a loved one to suicide. It’s in this role that we applaud you and the vital work that you do in helping prevent suicide in our country and communities.


Center for Mental Health Services. (2008). Supporting Survivors of Suicide Loss: A Guide for Funeral Directors. (SMA 09-4375; CMHS-SVP-0194). Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

This guide was funded by the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, which is supported by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (Grant No. 1 U79SM57392-03).