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Suicide Grief Support Primer

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This brief presentation comprehensively covers the fundamental nature of suicide bereavement and offers basic guidelines for coping with grief after suicide.

Published in: Healthcare
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Suicide Grief Support Primer

  1. 1. Suicide Grief Support Primer TABLE OF CONTENTS 2 - How to Listen and Respond 3 - Common Survivor Experiences 4 - Reactions to Trauma 5 - Indicators for Professional Referral 6 - Survivors' Needs after the Crisis 7 - Survivors and Suicide Risk SPONSORED BY Personal Grief Coaching www.personalgriefcoach.com © 2015 Personal Grief Coaching, All Rights Reserved: This resource may be used in whole or in part without permission, but only for non-commercial purposes and as long as this copyright notice and permission statement accompany the material used.
  2. 2. Page 2 Based on: Hobfoll, S.E., Watson, P., Bell, C.C., Bryant, R.A., Brymer, M.J., Friedman, M.J., … Ursano. (2007). Five essential elements of immediate and mid-term mass trauma intervention: Empirical evidence. Psychiatry. 70(4), 283– 315. How to Listen and Respond (See http://bit.ly/afterasuicide.)
  3. 3. Page 3 Common Survivor Experiences ● Shock, feeling numb (from surviving a traumatic experience) ● Intense emotions (anger, irritability, shame, abandonment, sorrow) ● Distress over the question "Why?" (blame, continuously and painfully thinking about the death, denying that the cause is suicide) ● Guilt ("What did I do to cause this?" "I should have done more to prevent it.") ● Negative judgments or actions from other people because the death was a suicide ● Weakened support systems (people uncertain how to react to suicide, stressful family relations, social isolation) ● Relief (the death relieves family's difficulties, ends deceased's pain) Note: Not all survivors experience all or any of these reactions. Adapted from: Jordan, J. R., & McIntosh, J. L. (2011). Is suicide bereavement different? A framework for rethinking the question. In J. R. Jordan & J. L. McIntosh (Eds.), Grief after Suicide: Understanding the consequences and caring for the survivors (pp. 19-42). New York: Routledge. [Please also see this book review.]
  4. 4. Page 4 ● Having distressing thoughts or images while awake or dreaming ● Feeling like the experience is happening all over again (a flashback) ● Avoiding talking, thinking, or having feelings about the event ● Avoiding reminders (triggers) of the event (people, places, and things connected to what happened) ● Reacting to (or being triggered by) reminders of or feelings about the event (troubling thoughts or images, emotional or physical distress) ● Being "on the lookout" for danger, startling easily, being jumpy (hypervigilance) ● Having restricted emotions (e.g., feeling numb) ● Feeling detached or estranged from others (e.g., social withdrawal) ● Losing interest in usually pleasurable activities ● Having difficulty falling or staying asleep, problems concentrating or paying attention Reactions to Traumatic Experience Adapted from: Brymer, M., Jacobs, A., Layne, C., Pynoos, R., Ruzek, J., Steinberg, A., Vernberg, E., & Watson, P., (2006). Psychological First Aid: Field operations guide (2nd ed.). National Child Traumatic Stress Network, Los Angeles & Durham, N.C.; National Center for PTSD, White River Junction, Vermont, 131–133.
  5. 5. Page 5 Adapted from: SAVE. (2011). After a suicide: Coping with your grief. [Wallet card] Minneapolis, Minn. ● Repeatedly experiencing loss of emotional control ● Feeling depressed or traumatized (see "Reactions," Page 4) for weeks with little or no relief ● Coping by using alcohol, drugs, or other risky or unhealthy means ● Having difficulty functioning in essential ways for days at a time (not taking care of personal hygiene, daily necessities, basic responsibilities Note: These can be "normal" in traumatic grief, and decision making about seeking professional help should be guided by the severity and duration of symptoms. Seek Professional Help: If a person is ...
  6. 6. Page 6 Survivors' Needs after the Crisis ● Help affirming or validating their sense of loss, especially through nonjudgmental listening and behavior ● Help anticipating emotional triggers and decreasing the intensity of reactions to trauma that disrupt daily functioning ● Help facing their grief in “doses” (instead of constantly) and finding ways to “take a break” from intense grief ● Help retelling the story of the death in a way that is safe and that shows compassion both for the deceased and for the survivor ● Help finding effective ways to manage changes in family dynamics and social relations -- and practicing what to say in particular situations ● Help exploring their continuing relationship with the deceased ● Help with activities to remember and honor the deceased ● Help returning to daily functions and looking toward the future ● Help identifying and engaging in culturally familiar and supportive sources of assistance for coping with their grief Adapted from: Jordan, J.R. (2011). Principles of grief counseling with adult survivors. In J.R. Jordan & J.L. McIntosh (Eds.), Grief after Suicide: Understanding the consequences and caring for the survivors (pp. 179–223). New York: Routledge. [Please also see this book review.].
  7. 7. Page 7 It is important to remember that ... ● As a group, survivors are at a statistically higher risk of suicide. ● It is not uncommon for people who have lost a loved one to suicide to think about wanting to die, so it is vital to ask directly and clearly if a person might take action on such thoughts. ● A survivor's wish to die might be for various reasons, for instance oTo escape from the pain of loss oTo join the loved one in death oBecause of feeling unable or undeserving to live

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