In Seniors Today Issue 3 August 98

by Amber Harvey, MA (Counselling)

The subject of suicide isn’t easy to bring up in conversation, yet at the moment, it’s the only subject that doesn’t seem frivolous. All of us ask ourselves and each other so many questions, like

-Why did she do it?

-What could I have done?

-Could anyone or anything have prevented it?

-Why didn’t she tell me?

-How much of the blame is mine? Someone else’s?

-How could she do this to us?

-Why didn’t she give me a chance to say goodbye? I love you?

When suicide touches your life, you experience a cascade of feelings that shock and weaken you. If you have lost someone to suicide, you might feel confused, guilty or angry. Sadness is expect- ed, but it might surprise you to feel guilt and anger. These feelings are normal reactions to death, especially to suicide. One day, a friend who had recently lost a child to suicide handed me a book, Stronger Than Death, by Sue Chance, MD. It describes in strong, clear language how one woman recovered from her son’s suicide. That she is a psychiatrist and an excellent writer and that she needed to let us look into her heart, mind and soul to see her process are our good fortune. She reveals how she kept going after the suicide, and eventually found peace. Dr. Chance describes how she came to see her role, that of witness. She writes and speaks of her own recovery in order to show others that recovery is possible.

After the suicide of someone you were close to, confusion, guilt and anger transpire in varying degrees, at different times. At times these feelings can sap your energy, absorb your every waking moment, infest your dreams.

What can you do about these overpowering, crushing feelings? The sooner you talk to a professional, the sooner you’ll begin to recover. Speak to someone who has been trained to sup- port and help you through this time of seemingly unbearable pain.

Victoria Hospice was a source of solace for our family. This wonderful organization provides a “Bereavement Package” which includes a “Suicide Grief’ section. This helpful package offers suggestions to the bereaved, as well as a list of books to read. They also extend an hour of free counselling, as well as a referral service, so you can continue to work on your grieving process with a trained professional.

The staff at the funeral home we dealt with were very supportive and constructive. They to offered us the services of a counsellor.

Please talk to someone. Get together with your family members and close friends over tea or coffee and talk with them. But remember that, like you, they are experiencing their own grief reactions and need support. Like earth quake victims helping each other out of the wreckage, you need the help of the “paramedics”.

Someone outside the circle of victims will be better able to provide solid support, someone without your shaky legs.

But do continue to speak with your family about your own and their experiences. In her book, Sue Chance reports that often as not, a suicide can tear a family apart, especially if you avoid talking about your grief with other family members.

If we never talk about the most painful and deeply felt event of our lives with our father, mother, brother, sister, mate, or chid, how are we to be ‘real’ to them? They, like every stranger, will only see our surface, so that achieving true intimacy with them becomes impossible.

In my family, all of us are reeling. We are deep- ly wounded. I doubt that we’ll ever be the same people we were before the suicide. But that’s all right, since we’ve all had to look at ourselves and take a piece of the guilt for ourselves. If we had all been better people, we’d feel less guilty, wouldn’t we? Maybe not, but in order to assuage our guilt, we are all trying to be kinder, better people. It’s one good thing that has come out of this tragedy. We might as well embrace it.

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