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Today’s post is from u/Lexi_St-James who answers the question: “How to tell daughter about a murder-suicide”
So I have worked in hospice and used to be a counselor (albeit addiction counseling).
Regardless of the person’s age, there is always an age-appropriate way to discuss the “tough” topics (ie, death, sex, drugs, illness, divorce, etc.)
For a 12 year old, tell her that you found out something that is really sad and you want to talk to her about it.
Sit outside – dont talk in your house or a place she’ll later associate with the news.
Face her. Turn completely it your seating so your shoulders/chest are completely open and facing her.
Hold her hands.
Tell her that her friend (I’ll call her Julia from now on for ease) and Julia’s entire family died. Say it all at one time but do not tell her how.
Ask her how she feels. Tell her that however she feels is completely ok and normal.
Tell her how much you love her. How proud you are of her. Maybe share a nice memory of her friend.
Focus on her emotions. Focus on what she says.
When she is done sharing her feelings ask her if she has any questions.
**Only tell her about HOW the VICTIMS died when she asks, not before. Let her digest the fact that Juila is dead first.
She will ask you about it when she’s ready to. It might be that moment it might be in a week, it might be longer.
When she does ask tell her that Julia, Julia’s siblings, and Julia’s mom were shot with a gun and the gun was held by someone else who was suffering from mental health issues. That this person was very sick and very wrong for doing what he did.
Dont say yet it was her dad. Let her process what you said.
If she asks who “he” was just say it was Julia’s dad.
Dont say “her” dad. Dont say his name if you know it. Dont say “your friend’s dad.”
Let her process. Dont tell her yet he killed himself.
When she asks, tell her that after Julia’s dad shot Julia, Julia’s siblings, and Julia’s mom, he shot himself. This is called suicide.
Dont say he committed suicide -tell her what happened then name it.
Reiterate that he was very sick and did a very bad thing.
Tell her you love her.
Tell her that you are here if she needs or wants to talk.
Ask her if she has questions.
After she is done sharing, ask her if there is anything she wants to do to commemorate Julia.
Point is you let them lead the conversation. Only give her information she asks for. Keep your answers short and only answer what she asked.
Good luck. Sorry for everyone’s loss. Reach out if you need more information/advice.