When A Child Returns to School After a Parent's Suicide:
A child returning to school
after a parent's suicide is a very important part of the healing. School provides children with a sense of normalcy and
reassures them that life goes on, even after a tragedy. Every child in different in how much time they feel they need until
they return to school. Some choose to go back soon after the death to see their friends and feel the predictability of school
instead of the sadness and confusion at home. Others feel very anxious about returning as it means being away from the security
of home and family. They may need a few extra days or attend school part time for a short time. If there is a lot of fear,
perhaps speaking to a counselor may be helpful.
It is helpful to contact the principal, teacher, school counselor and nurse. Often people have
learned about it in the community. Families can decide how much information to share. Details are not necessary, but it helps
to let the school know what the child understands or has been told. Meeting privately with the teacher is helpful for younger
children. Teens need to be involved in this process, if they choose.
Children need to be prepared for what they may encounter at school. Friends may seem awkward
around them and not know what to say. Many educators find it difficult to help child survivors. Let children practice
responding with such things as: "thank you", "I am too sad to talk about it now", "I don't want
to talk about what happened. Maybe you can talk to my mom." Remind them that even if an adult asks, sharing information
or expressing feelings is not required.
A child can respond with: "My dad had an illness in his brain that caused him to end his life. The
medicines he tried did not help him." or "My dad died from complications of depression." Peers can say things
that are upsetting too as suicide is so frightening that sometimes children say cruel or upsetting comments. It is hard
for children to let peers know that their feelings have been hurt. This is a good time for adults, such as teachers, neighbors,
or coaches to help out and use this time to talk about how children can support a friend and the importance of being kind.
Helpful Books for Children and Families after a Parent's Suicide:
My Uncle Keith Died by Carol Ann Loehr (helps parents and professionals talk to young
children and older children about depression and suicide)
Thing Happened by Margaret Holmes (book for young children after something terrible has happened)
How it Feels When a Parent Dies by Jill Krementz
(children 7-16 share openly what it is like to lose a parent from all different causes)
Dying to Be Free: A Healing Guide for Families after a Suicide by Beverly Cobain
(Kurt's Cobain's cousin,Kurt was the 27 year old front man for the band Nirvana who died by suicide in 1994).
But I Didn't Say Goodbye: Helping Children and Families after a Suicide by Barbara Rubel
Voices of Strength: Sons and Daughters of Suicide Speak Out by Judy Zionts Fox and
Mia Roidan, 2009)
Understanding Your Suicide Grief:
Ten Essential Touchstones for Finding Hope and Healing Your Heart by Alan Wolfelt (founder of www.centerforloss.com)
author, educator and grief counselor.