47 SUICIDE PREVENTION AWARENESS photo created by freepik Talking to Children About a Suicide (continued) Striking the right chord Talking to Children About a Suicide not only dispels common myths, it also walks caregivers through simple techniques to help alleviate some of the pressure they may feel during those hard talks. “Things like sitting hip to hip make so much sense, but’s it’s not something you automatically know how to do,” said Rodrigue, referring to the ‘sideways conversation’ technique that removes the pressure of eye contact to let you talk more naturally, either as you’re walking or engaging in a quiet activity side by side. “It can open up space that allows the awkwardness to move its way through.” The resource itself is deceptively simple.“The first thing you have to do is prepare yourself to be the support,” said McKercher.“And that requires you to deal with any personal feelings you may have, so you can set them aside and offer a non-judgmental, caring ear.” Grief looks different for each child, she added, and as kids grow, so does their comprehension of death. But regardless of a child’s reaction, gently reaffirming that they aren’t to blame for the suicide is one of the most important things a caregiver can do. A long conversation Children not only pick up on moods, they overhear conversations and exchange ideas with their peers. “So we need to equip kids with the right information for their age and stage of development, and we need to be guided by their questions,” said Rewari. “Dealing with suicide isn’t a one and done conversation.” A resource like this is important, said Rodrigue, because it highlights the shift in children’s understanding over time.A child who loses a loved one to suicide at a very young age, for example, may begin to act out as they grow older and have a greater understanding of the permanence of death. “Whether it’s anger, frustration, guilt,” added Rewari,“not sleeping, having trouble concentrating - or no visible signs at all - grief doesn’t abide by a chart, and it can’t be plotted on a graph.Yet, while no one can anticipate what shape it might take, we can give caregivers a road map for conversing with a child as it may unfold.” Rodrigue agrees.“A suicide isn’t something one gets over. It’s something one learns to live with. And if we can model empathy, non-judgment, and understanding, the children in our lives will learn, over time, to do the same. It’s a ripple effect that could spell transformational change around how we talk about and respond to suicides in our communities and families.”