The first Survivors of Suicide Loss Support Group (SOSL), led by co-facilitators, Michelle Price, HelpLine Suicide Prevention Program Manager, and Kathy Wellman, recently concluded in early November with a holiday retreat. This 12-week intensive support group takes participants on a journey through their own personal grief to better understand and integrate their loss into their lives.
Each week, participants read a chapter from a provided text about different parts of grief after suicide loss. The group also discusses accepting their loss, the uniqueness of their experience with grief, and seeking integration—not resolution. Grief after suicide is unique because survivors are left with questions of “why?”, and many of those questions may never be answered.
Expressing grief after a suicide loss can be difficult for some due to attitudes people still hold about suicide. This stigma surrounding suicide is felt by survivors, and it can cause them to hold their grief inside or try to move on too quickly. But the truth is, a suicide loss is not something to “get over.” This type of loss will be with someone forever.
All Survivors in this SOSL group had experienced a loss within the past year to 2 years. When they began, they were looking for things like: a safe place to talk about their experiences, ways to cope with their grief and the pain of their loss, and encouragement and support from other survivors.
At the conclusion of the SOSL group, participants reported having their original needs met, and then some. One survivor, Beth P., said, “Going through the 12-week book study with friends in the same journey allowed me to process and reflect on many aspects of the grieving journey that I probably would not have done alone. It was a good way to reflect, analyze and work toward healing.”
“It was very helpful in addressing about every aspect of grief recovery, even many that I hadn’t considered. This did help me process more of my loss and help me get past some of it and improve my control of strong emotions,” said SOSL participant, Mike R.
Concluding with the holiday retreat provided survivors with ways to cope with the hectic pace that the season often brings along with ways to honor their loved one. Through the group, co-facilitator Price learned that many survivors want to talk about their loved one that they lost to suicide. So many people turn away when they hear someone died by suicide.
“Although it is painful at times, those that have been lost to suicide were still loved and cared for by those left behind. It may bring tears sometimes, but many survivors I have met want to talk about the person they lost. It reminds them that their loved one is not forgotten,” she said.
The next SOSL Support Group will begin in the spring of 2018. This is a closed group and requires meeting with the facilitator before joining. For more information or to join, please contact Michelle Price at email@example.com or 1-800-684-2324.