What should I say?

You may feel worried or embarrassed about talking about the death, but it’s better to say “I don’t know what to say” than to avoid the bereaved person. Say “I’m sorry” as it will be more difficult if you leave it a long time. How your friend responds will give you an idea of their needs at this time – if they quickly change the subject they may not want to talk, but if they do, this will give them the opportunity. If you aren’t sure, ask. 

Share the things you remember about the dead person and what they meant to you. It is upsetting if people avoid talking about the person who has died, as this seems to deny their existence and their importance in your friend’s life. Using the dead person’s name can be a comfort. 

Don’t ask too much about the details of the death; let your friend give you as much information as they feel comfortable with. Sometimes there will be uncertainty about whether the death was a suicide or not (especially if the coroner gives an ‘open’ conclusion). Avoid making assumptions. Also be careful of the language you use: for example, some people find the term ‘committed suicide’ particularly distressing as this term is still associated with suicide being a criminal act. Don’t be judgemental, and avoid giving reasons for the death. It is not helpful to say “I know how you feel”. It’s better to ask how your friend is feeling and what you can do to help.