How I told my children that their father had taken his own life

Blog by Katherine Woods

I found out that my children’s father had died by suicide when the police came to my house. It was a normal day; the children had gone to school and I was working from home. In fact, I thought the police were door to door salesmen and nearly sent them away. 

It was a big shock, but it wasn’t a surprise if that makes any sense, and people that knew him said the same. He was not in a good space and that was apparent to anyone who was close to him. I don’t think anyone really knew what to do or how to help him. 

I remember sitting down, it was about 11 o'clock on that day, and realising I had until 3.30pm school pickup to figure out how to tell the children.

I actually Googled ‘How to tell your child their father has died by suicide’ and top of the listing was Child Bereavement UK. I got through to the Helpline and the people on the end of the phone were amazing. They had the benefit of having experienced this kind of thing before and were able to give advice based on very practical things to do.

The key things I remembered were tell the truth, and don’t lie to them and say he had a heart attack, face the truth that he has taken his own life but don’t give too much information, just let the children ask for the information they need. 

I think left to my own devices I might have given them a whole contextual piece about how daddy was feeling and why he might have done what he did. The advice I got was lay out the bones of the situation and see what they ask and be willing to answer whatever questions they ask, when they ask them. That's pretty much what I did. It was a really difficult time for us, but it started the right way.

If I had chosen to say it in a different way I'd have had to backtrack or unpick things I had unwittingly said. Because I had advice from Child Bereavement UK, I didn’t have to do that which made things easier. I think it started us off on the road to recovery in the best way.

Visit our page: How we can support you for more on our services.

You can also call our Helpline 0800 02 888 40, email [email protected], or use Live Chat on our website.