After a Suicide Death: Postvention


A suicide within a community, regardless of your relationship to the person, can have a varied and lasting impact. Whether it be a friend, family member, colleague, or someone you know, the effects of a suicide loss can ripple through a community and be felt many relationships removed from the person who died. This leaves behind a complex grief characterized by guilt, blame, fear, and confusion. Questions are left unanswered for those who struggle to understand why.

Postvention is an organized response in the aftermath of a suicide to accomplish any one or more of the following:1

  • To facilitate the healing of individuals from the grief and distress of suicide loss
  • To mitigate other negative effects of exposure to suicide
  • To prevent suicide among people who are at high risk after exposure to suicide

Postvention is prevention. Organizations – particularly schools, workplaces, health care settings, and senior centers – should incorporate postvention so that they are prepared to respond to a suicide death. This includes both planning ahead and responding effectively after a suicide.2Team members with hands together in a circle.

In planning ahead:

  • Develop plans and protocols in advance
  • Be prepared to respond to both the immediate and longer-term emotional needs of everyone involved
  • Build relationships with all who interact with those who experience loss including social service professionals, mental health providers, emergency medical services personnel, and law enforcement
  • Adopt an active postvention model in which a trained postvention team reaches out proactively following a suicide rather than waiting for survivors to directly seek help

For an effective response:

  • Work with the media to encourage safe messaging (link to safe and effective messaging page) and share the Reporting on Suicide media toolkit.
  • Create environments for mourning that do not increase the risk of contagion
  • Provide peer and professional treatment options
  • Support and guide family and friends so that they can provide support to those who are grieving


Support for the Family

Memorial and funeral services offer an opportunity for friends and neighbors to support a grieving family. The Suicide Prevention Resource Center published the guide Supporting Survivors of Suicide Loss: A Guide for Funeral Directors, with common reactions, helpful ways to respond, answers to frequently asked questions, and links to more resources.


Tips for supporting grieving children and adolescents

Children grieve differently than adults. They generally have less tolerance for strong emotions. Consequently, they may feel loss very intensely one moment and then quickly back away and be playing with friends the next. The intense feelings associated with loss may come in short bursts. It can be helpful to seize on those moments as opportunities to help children express what they are feeling, normalize the feelings of grief, and reassure them.

Children need simple, honest answers to their questions and age-appropriate explanations of what happened. They need to know that their feelings are acceptable, to know it is not their fault, and maintain normal routines and regular activities. Explore the resources below for more information on how to effectively communicate with children and adolescents following a suicide.

Boy on his father's shoulders with mom close by.



Talking to Children About the Death by Suicide in the Family

Coping with a Parent’s Suicide

When a Child’s Friend Dies by Suicide


  1. Survivors of Suicide Loss Task Force. Responding to grief, trauma, and distress after a suicide: U.S. National Guidelines. 2015, Washington, DC: National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention. Retrieved from Suicide Prevention Resource Center.
  2. Suicide Prevention Resource Center. Provide for immediate and long-term postvention. Retrieved from Suicide Prevention Resource Center.