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How Can I Help a Child Cope With a Parent's Suicide?

I'm concerned about my niece. Her mother committed suicide and she is blaming herself. How can I help her to deal with her mother's death?
- Lola

Talking with your niece and encouraging her to share her feelings can be a big help. Let her know that it's not her fault, and that many children of parents who commit suicide feel the way she does.

While it's natural to feel guilty and to wonder if there's anything that could have been said or done to prevent it, her mother's suicide wasn't the result of anything your niece did. It's also natural to feel some anger at what happened — and even some embarrassment.

Dealing with a parent's death is difficult for anyone. Your niece needs your understanding and support. If possible, she should talk with a mental health professional, such as a psychologist who is experienced at working with young people.

Group therapy can be helpful since your niece will meet others in a similar situation to hers, which can make her feel less isolated. It's also sometimes easier to listen to advice from other people who have been through the same experience.

Your niece's doctor can help her find someone appropriate to talk to.

Reviewed by: Michelle New, PhD
Date reviewed: January 2012