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A listing of support groups in NJ and NY is on the bottom of this page: For information for a support group in your state please visit: www.suicidology.org or www.afsp.org (if you are aware of a support group for survivors that is not listed or if one listed is no longer active, please email me with the information about the group).
A suicide survivor or a suicide griever is someone who has lost someone close to them from suicide. A person never "gets over" it, but you can get through it with the support of others, especially others who have traveled down that painful path, your ability to grieve, and learning to slowly accept that your life is now changed. It will be a different normal from here on in. I am sorry that you have to be reading this page but do hope that it helps you a little bit feel less alone.
Suicide often involves loved ones experiencing a range of feelings including shock, numbness, guilt, anger, confusion, denial, sadness and more. People wonder forever, why? What if I had only.... Maybe if.... Looking back now I wonder if.... There is often stigma attached to suicide so at times grievers will unfortunately encounter insensitive people who may look to blame, judge or exclude you. Often friends don't know what to say so may say something very hurtful "didn't you see any signs?" or people seem to run the other way to avoid you. You are in pain, and overwhelmed and often the support and care from old friends may be hard to find. That is why it is so important that you find a support group for survivors, a good counselor, a good friend to talk to, who is patient and can just listen and be with you, a hot line number to call, a web site that offers validation or a book that also shares what others like you have gone through to get to the other side, which now feels so far away. A good site is www.afsp.org (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention) Self care at this time is extremely important. Taking time to rest (sleep may be hard to come by), cry, exercise, drink water, eat healthy foods (although you may have lost your appetite) take grief breaks, watch light TV (avoid the news), spend time with supportive people, or be alone for some times, but careful of isolating, be with only those who give you strength, those who can be quiet and listen and avoid the toxic people in your life now. Ask a friend to help you with things that are very difficult like grocery shopping, or cooking or laundry. Below is some information and some self help groups. Try one out for a few times before making a decision about it. So often those who have been in your shoes tell me that it was the support of strangers who became friends, who they met at the support groups that got them through the toughest times.
The Suicide Survivor often struggles with meaning. Survivors often have a hard time finding meaning in the loss. They try to find reasons why. They wonder if something could have been done. Often survivors have higher levels of guilt, blame and take on the responsibility of the loss. They may worry if they had some part in the death. Feelings of rejection, abandonment and anger may be intense. There are many unsolved questions that may never have resolution. Many don't know how to seek support and many friends and family don't know what to say and often avoid the person. It is not uncommon for some survivors to experience some feelings of relief mixed into their grief. Although the person is gone there may be a sense of release from the turmoil, if that had been the situation.
Potential Aspects of Suicide Grief:
Shock, Numbness, Denial, Disbelief
Disorganization, Confusion, Searching, Yearning
Anxiety, Fear, Panic
Guilt, Regret, Self-Blame, Shame, Embarrassment
Sadness, Depression, Loneliness, Vulnerability
Sitting in the wound: this is about surrendering to your grief in recognition that the only way to the other side is through. This acknowdeges you are willing to do the work that mourning requires. Paradoxically, this befriending of your wound is what eventually restores your life and your living. To do this requires that you do not shut the world out, but let the world come in. - Alan Wolfelt
Plan what to say to others. So often survivors are faced with questions that are uncomfortable from outsiders. Creating something or a couple of things to say will help so that you feel more prepared. If someone asks details you may say, "I don't really want to talk about it now". If someone who doesn't know asks how they died it is fine to say, "she took her life" or "she died by suicide". Some will say, "he suffered from a long illness" which is the truth for so many who suffered with depression for a long time.
How Can I Help a Friend Through the Suicide of a Loved One?
(adapted from the wonderful website: Survivors Road 2 Healing: www.road2healing.com)
I'll write this from the perspective of a mother/son loss because that's my story. The one thing she will need most is someone to let her talk. Sit down by her and say things like, "Tell me how you feel." "Do you need to talk about it?" Don't be pushy or hover, but 'be there.' (Most men prefer not to talk about it!)
* Don't ask her to let you know if you can help, she won't ask you. She isn't even thinking that well. Instead ask her, can I clean up your kitchen, mow your lawn, cook.. or whatever.
* She will blame herself, and this is normal. That's an issue only she can work through, and all survivors have to do that. In her head she may know she isn't to blame, but it will take time to convince her heart. Allow her to work through it.
* And please, NEVER say to a survivor, "it's time to get over it" or "you have to go on with your life now." It will only distance you. They will never get over it. They have to learn how to live with it, and learning that is a process. It takes time. Also, please don't say things like "He's in a better place now." That sounds so cliché' and mechanical, and it usually only makes us mad.
* This isn't anything you can "fix", so please don't try to. Sometimes just sitting beside her and letting her cry will do wonders. As much as you hate to see her hurt, it's something she will have work through herself. Just be there for her. Silence is OK sometimes, too.
* At this point survival is not a sure thing to her, but she's in too much shock to make a decision about it all. Let her know you're there, but don't pressure her. I had a buddy that came over and took me out to dinner a of couple times. I was feeling very quiet (because he didn't understand, and I knew that) and we would just sit there watching people, me wiping tears off my cheek, and not saying a word. Then he'd take me home and leave. I really needed that. I wasn't expected to "do" anything; I was just allowed to be whatever I needed to be. THAT'S a real friend!
* Somewhere around the 3rd month the shock will wear completely off, the "fog" will lift, and she will be zapped back to the very beginning of this grieving process. She may feel like she did a 'free fall' right back to day one. That's normal. People that start telling her to "get over it" and "go on with life" will only build walls. Trust me, she would if she could!!!
*From around the 3rd month it will be a real hard road, with many ups and downs. Birthdays (hers and his) will be hard, as well as holidays and the death date anniversary. It will help to be mindful of that. It will take anywhere from 6 months to another year to find real hope again. For a parent it may take two years to "regain a normal life."
* Something important for you to know that very few people understand.. if you mention her son it will not cause her pain. The loudest cry from a survivor is "they won't let me talk about him!" or "They change the subject" and "No one mentions him except me. How can he just be forgotten?" You need to know that he is on her mind at all times. She won't have a single thought that isn't connected to him for several months. If you mention his name and she cries, it's NOT because you said something to hurt her. The tears are ALWAYS there- she just released some of them. This is important for a survivor, so please don't make it more painful by denying her the times she needs to talk about him.
Explaining suicide to children:
Children tend to be less shy about asking all kinds of questions. Some though, will need help in getting their concerns out. Never lie, as the truth will always come out and later children often feel angry and hurt that they didn't know the truth. If it is mentionable it is manageable. You can teach that "the person had an illness inside their brain and it made them so sad that they couldn't be in that pain anymore and they didn't want to live anymore".Be careful about making the person seem bad because they made a bad decision. They were not thinking clearly at that time. Teach children that suicide is not an acceptable action. Also let them know that most people who are sad and depressed do not take their own lives. Most get help from people who can help them, doctors, counselors, friends. Encourage your child to seek help that is available to them if they need it.
Suicide: When a person kills himself or herself on purpose. When a person makes his or her own body stop working.
There are many reasons why people die by suicide. Research tells us now that 95% of people who die by suicide had a mental illness that was diagnosed or was un-diagnosed. At the time of a suicide a person is not thinking about the effect it will cause on their family and friends. Sometimes they think their family and friends will be glad they are dead. This is never, never what happens. A family is sad and wish that they could have helped the person. Sometimes families feel angry too that the person didn't tell them that they were so sad.
Families feel terrible when someone dies by suicide. Some people try to pretend it was an accident. It is always better to be honest when someone ends their own life. Here is a good way to understand what happens: "Some people's bodies get sick and don't work right. And sometimes a person's brain or mind doesn't work right. They can't see things clearly and they feel the only way to solve their problems is to take their own life- to kill themselves. However, this is never a solution to problems, the only reason they thought of it is that they weren't thinking very clearly. (How do We Tell the Children? by Dan Schafer and Christine Lyons)
It is important to teach children that there are always solutions to any problem. It always helps to share our problems with others and listen to the ways that other people may suggest that we might solve our problem. It is also important as friends of someone who had someone die by suicide that the focus should be on the loss of the person and not on "how" the person died. No matter what someone is still missing having someone in their life. There is a lot more confusion, sadness and anger with a death by suicide. It is helpful if the person can find a suicide survivor group to attend or to go to a suicide survivor web site. Often people want to be with others who have had a similar situation happen.
WARNING: When seeking counseling or therapy, know that many traditionally trained mental health counselors or therapists who do not have training in trauma grief, may be quick to diagnose you with PTSD ( post traumatic stress disorder). Check out the qualifications of the person you seek help from and get assurance that they have training in trauma grief. Suicide grief is complicated and often mimics many of the symptoms of PTSD. It is a real phenomenon, but doesn't mean you have that particular disorder. You are a normal person having a normal response to an abnormal, infrequent traumatic experience in your life.
Some myths about suicide grief:
You will grieve but you will have to make a conscious effort to mourn.
Your grief involves a lot of different emotions and feelings and thoughts.
Grief impacts people in five areas: physical, emotional, cognitive, social and spiritual
You need to feel it to heal it
The grief usually hurts more before it hurts less
Grief is unpredictable and will not progress orderly, instead it may be like a roller-coaster
You don't "get over" or "move on", you learn to integrate the loss into your life, you learn to live without the person
You need others to help you through grief
You will not always feel this bad!
(adapted from Alan Wolfelt's book: Understanding Your Suicide Grief)
It is never too early to start healing. Find a support group or a qualified therapist as soon as possible. Many claim that being in a support group for survivors was the best thing they did after the death. Just being in a room with others who have lived through this helps so much. (However, you know yourself better than anyone else, so if you think that being around others early on who will also share their stories will feel too much for you, perhaps wait a bit to attend a group. It does help to call a group leader and ask questions or discuss any concerns you may have about attending a group. Many attend and don't talk for the first few times and others open up immediately. It really depends on the person. Do what feels right to you, but please find people in your life to support you and who listen and don't push you to do anything you are not comfortable doing.)
Support Groups by County
Heartbreak to Healing: Mutual support and understanding for persons who have lost a loved one to suicide. Group meets last Tues, 7:30pm, Grace Lutheran Church, Somers Point. Call Dolores 609-345-3230
Atlantic City Grief Support Group: Professionally run for anyone who has lost someone to natural causes, homicide, suicide, or sudden death. Meets 2nd Wed, 6:30-8:30pm. AtlanticaCare Healthplex, 1401 Atlantic Ave, Atlantic City. Call first 609-272-2424
Survivors After Suicide: Professionally run. Provides support for family members and friends of people who died by suicide. Open to all. Meets 1st and 3rd Wed. 7:15-8:45. Vantage Health System, 2 Park Ave, Dumont. Call Michelle at 201-818-7133 or Vantage Health System 201-385-4400, ext 0
Helping Hands Grief Support Group:
Christian based support for anyone bereaving the loss of a loved one (including death of a child, loss to homicide or suicide) through education, encouragement, counseling and understanding. Families welcome. Meets 1st and 3rd Monday 7-9pm. Fellowship Alliance Chapel, Log house behind church, 199 Church Rd, Medford. Call Wanda and George 609-953-7333 ext 309
Living Through Suicide:
Prof run, Christian based support for those who have lost a loved one to suicide. Meets 4th Monday, 7-9pm. Fellowship Alliance Chapel, 199 Church Rd, Medford. Call Wanda 609-953-7333 ext 309
Sharing Suicide's Sorrow:
Prof run, Support for family and friends grieving a death from suicide. Meetings vary. The Center for Grief Support, 5 Eves Drive, Suite 180, Marlton. Call 800-596-8550
Friends and Families of Suicide:
Support for those who have lost a loved one to suicide. Meets 2nd Tuesday, 7:45pm. Barrington Borough Municipal Building, 229 Trenton Ave, Barrington. Call Barbara 856-307-0331. email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Life After Loss: prof.run, Support for those who have lost a loved one to suicide. Guest speakers, literature and phone help. Meetings 4th Monday of the month, Congregation Beth Ahm, 56 Grove Avenue, Verona. Next meeting: May 24, 2010 at 7:30 pm. Call first 973-204-9878 email email@example.com Led by Marcia Eskin and Doug Brant
Surviving After Suicide:
Prof run, Support for those who have lost a loved one to suicide. Quarterly newsletter, meets 3rd Wed, 7:30pm, Trinity United Methodist Church , 1985 Pennington Rd, Ewing. Call Daniel Casselberry, 609-434-0061 email firstname.lastname@example.org
Surviving After Suicide:
Prof run, Group for survivors after the suicide of a family member or friend. Meets 3rd Monday 7:30-9pm, University of Medicine and Dentistry of NJ. University Behavioral Health Care, 671 Hoes Lane, Piscataway. Call Peggy Farrell, 732-462-5267. email: email@example.com
Surviving After Suicide:
Prof run, Group for survivors after the suicide of a family member or friend. Meets 2nd Tues 7:30-9:30pm. Bayshore Memorial Hospital, Conference Room A, 717 N. Beers St, Holmdel. Call Peggy Farrell 732-462-5267 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Survivors of Suicide:
Mutual support and discussion for people who have had someone close to them die by suicide. Meets 2nd and 4th Wed. 7:30-9pm, Grace Episcopal Church, 4 Madison Ave, Madison. Call Jack Klingert at 908-605-0325 or email Jack at: email@example.com
Survivors After Suicide:
Support for those who have lost a loved one to suicide. Meets 2nd Thursday, 7:30pm, St Francis Center, Long Beach Blvd, Brant Beach. Call Jo and Roger 609-361-7608.
Survivors of Suicide:
Grief support and understanding for those who have lost a loved one to suicide. Meets 2nd Wednesday, 7:30-9:30 pm, Ocean Medical Center, 425 Jack Martin Blvd. Brick. Before attending call Dave Thelen, 732-899-8483
Surviving of Suicide:
Mutual support for those who have lost a loved one to suicide. Meets 3rd Tues, 7-9pm. Kimball Medical Center, Center for Healthy Living, 198 Prospect St, Lakewood. Call Jim Romer 732-886-4475 (day) email: firstname.lastname@example.org
American Association of Suicidology:
American Association of Suicidology:
National , 350 affiliated groups. Referrals to local support groups for survivors of suicide nationwide. Directory of groups ($15). Newsletter, pamphlets, and brochures available for a fee. Book available on starting self-help groups ($30) Write : 202-237-2280 website: www.suicidology.org email: email@example.com
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention:
Resource: Founded 1987. Provides state by state directory of survivor support groups for families and friends who have lost someone to suicide. Training programs available to start similar groups. 888-333-2377, ww.afsp.org
Mutual support for those who have lost a loved one through suicide. Information, referrals, phone support and chapter development guidelines on-line. Speakers on suicide bereavement. 719-596-2575. http://heartbeatsurvivorsaftersuicide.org
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Survivors Road 2 Healing: (See excerpt from their helpful site above)
Friends and Family of Suicide:
Online: Founded 1998. Provides online support to survivors of suicide. Offers moderated e-mail mailing list, chatroom, retreats and various memorial projects. Direct sign up address: http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/ffofsuicides email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Parents of Suicide:
Online, founded 1998, Support for parents whose sons and daughters have died by suicide. Annual retreat. Offers private chatroom, email, discussion groups and listserv. Web site: www.pos-ffos.com Direct sign up: http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/parentsofsuicides email: email@example.com
SOLES: (Survivors of Law Enforcement Suicide)
Online: founded 1995, Provides emotional support to families of police officers who died by suicide. Information and referrals on national and local resources including support groups, conferences and grief workshops. Email discussion list and weekly online chat. http://www.tearsofacop.com/police/soles
Helpful Web sites:
www.TheGiftofKeith.org (web site of information to help comfort and educate survivors of suicide, as well as clergy, health care professionals and counselors)
Click on this links above to visit those web sites
Taboo: something society decides is so terrible that no one is allowed to do it, talk about it, or learn about it
Stigma: the mark of shame and ridicule placed on those people who do kill themselves and on their families. The stigma is the punishment for breaking the taboo.
People are often anxious and afraid of what they do not understand, so this stigma exists because of fear. So, it is crucial for those who have lost someone to suicide, to reach out and find safe, nonjudgemental people who support your need to mourn openly and honestly. (adapted from Alan Wolfelt's book: Understanding Your Suicide Grief
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