49 SUICIDE PREVENTION AWARENESS Could I have prevented my parent’s suicide? What could I have done differently? Children often think there is something they could have done, or done differently, to prevent the suicide. They may think that if dad had told them how sad he was, they could have stopped him from dying. If they had gotten better grades at school, perhaps mommy would have been happier and would still be alive. If they had been nicer to their brothers and sisters, things would have been easier at home and their parent would not have died by suicide. • Make sure the child knows the suicide is not anyone’s fault.There is nothing the child could have done to change what happened.Also make sure the child knows that the parent who died loved him or her very much. • Feelings are not rational. Even though you have told the child that the suicide was not his or her fault, the child may still feel guilty. Guilt feelings can last a long time.The child needs to be able to express guilt and have it accepted. Eventually these feelings will be less intense. Will I die by suicide too? Suicide is scary for children. Sometimes children think that if their parent died by suicide, they might end up dying in the same way - that it runs in the family. You can tell the child: • Suicide is not something you can “catch” from someone else, like a cold.And it is not inherited from your parents. Are you going to die too? Will I be left alone? When a parent dies, many children become afraid of being left alone or abandoned. Some children fear that if one parent can leave them, the other could go too. Children may become very anxious or clingy.They may worry if the remaining parent is away for a time. • Let the child know that you are here now and that you love him or her very much.Tell the child that you do your best to lead a healthy life, and that you know how to get help when you need it. Depending on their age, you might also tell children who would take care of them if necessary. • Children need time to process the trauma of suicide and to rebuild trust - trust in the people they love and in the world they thought was safe and secure. If I die by suicide too, will I see my parent again? Young children may say to the remaining parent,“I want to die to be with Mommy or Daddy.” Depending on their age, children may not understand that death is permanent. They may think they can visit the parent who has died and then come back to the living parent. Unfortunately, some kids think that suicide might not be such a bad idea.The sadness they feel after their parent’s death is so intense that they think nothing could be worse - not even their own death. You can tell the child: • Suicide is never the answer to a problem. There are other ways to solve problems. • If the child ever becomes very sad, he or she should get help.An adult can make sure children get the help they need. What do I tell kids at school? Will they think bad things about my family? • Many people have negative attitudes about suicide and mental health problems. Some people look down on a family that has experienced a suicide (or other mental illnesses). Sometimes kids will make mean jokes and pick on others because of this.They might say something cruel like,“Ha ha, your mom killed herself.” Some children have no idea how hurtful this can be. Others know it hurts, (continued) When a Parent Dies by Suicide ... What kids want to know (continued)