Lifeline CEO Wendy Carver was recently asked for advice on how to reach out to a friend who had just lost a friend to suicide. Below are her thoughts on how to support someone in this position.
Supporting people who have been bereaved by suicide is indeed very sensitive. In the early days (as with most deaths of a loved one) family members are often in shock and it can be too early to offer resources. That being said one of the things not to do, is to avoid friends who have lost someone to suicide. Avoiding people who are grieving, because we don’t know what to say or do can be very hurtful.
In the early stages of loss by suicide, sometimes all friends can do is just be there and listen (over and over again if need be), be reflective of things they might say, and be caring and empathic. Listening and being reflective, is a way of sitting with them in their pain and not trying to move them on before they feel able to.
The family will currently be dealing with the Coroner’s Office (as all suicides do). The Coroner’s Office will give them information on support e.g. Suicide Bereavement Groups and one-on-one counselling. Many of our clients (who have been bereaved by suicide) say the Coroner’s Office are very helpful and sensitive which is good, however they also say that they do not like accessing counselling at their premises, as that is where they have gone regarding the body of their loved one and they find it more helpful to go to a different location for counselling support.
You could possibly give some additional resources to your brother-in-law, so that he could offer them to the family when he thought the time was right. If the family live in Sydney they would be very welcome to access one-on-one counselling support and/or suicide bereavement group support at our office at Gordon. There are similar services at Lifeline at Balgowlah.
The Coroner’s Office will provide a list of suicide bereavement groups and counselling services to the family. Although, as already mentioned, we often hear that in the early stages of suicide bereavement, families are just too raw and traumatised to think about accessing support.
Many people seem to find one-on-one counselling easier as the first step and then to move onto group support as the second step. Of course some people prefer not to access any formal support. Everyone grieves differently and in their own way and time. Lifeline’s 24/7 crisis support on 13 11 14 is always a great number for people to ring when they just don’t know what else to do. Sometimes people find it easier to talk to someone they don’t know, rather than someone they do.
There are a number of people in our office who would be happy to talk to members of the family over the phone at any time or by appointment. A good initial referral at Gordon would be Gabrielle. Among other things, Gabrielle is responsible for intake. She would always be very empathic and caring. She would then be responsible for setting up appointments at Gordon if desired.
I hope this information might be helpful in some way.
Please phone the Lifeline office at Gordon on 9498 8805 if you would like to make an appointment, or access support from any of our services.