Publish date: 19 April 2021

As part of our Kinnect quality improvement project, we’ve been learning from family experiences.

From listening to families who have lost a loved to suicide, we know they feel treated differently to other bereaved people. Many say their friends, neighbours, and even NHS staff fail to express sympathy or even acknowledge their loss.

It is normal to be worried about saying the wrong thing when speaking to a bereaved relative. None of us want to make an already terrible situation worse, and add to someone’s pain. While there can never be a one size fits all approach to talking with a bereaved relative, there are certain things we can say without fear of causing offence.


Cruse Bereavement Care, a leading national organisation providing support following a death, says the following are acceptable, compassionate ways to begin a conversation with a bereaved relative:

  • I am so sorry for your loss.
  • I don’t know what to say but I am so sorry to hear this news.
  • I’m so sad to hear this.

And if you knew the person better:

  • They were such a wonderful person, they will be hugely missed.
  • They will be missed so much. You are in my thoughts
  • I cannot imagine the hole that she/he will have left.

Feedback from service users

Feedback from our service user group about these suggestions is that the statements are:

“…caring and compassionate but not patronising and take into consideration the feelings of the bereaved relatives. I think these qualities are extremely necessary and are not too much for a family to handle.”

We hope this will be useful should you pick the phone up to a recently bereaved relative

Other resources

Finding the words booklet - If you're supporting someone who has been affected by suicide, Finding the Words, is a really useful resource that has been produced by the Support After Suicide Partnership. This can help guide you through talking to and listening to someone who has been bereaved by suicide

Family Support Lead – if you’re acting as the family support lead (previously known as family liaison officer) you can find guidance, information about training, peer supervision and access to signposting resources for families carers on our dedicated family support lead StaffZone page.

Downloadable quick reference guide

Download our handy printable quick reference guide.