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Matters of Substance: common myths about grief and suicide

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At a recent workshop on Grief after Suicide in South Boston, Dr. John Jordan, a clinician and author who specializes in supporting survivors of suicide, said that if we challenge the “myths” our society traditionally holds about the process of grieving, we can help survivors around a number of obstacles and help them move forward with their lives. Dr. Jordan highlighted some of the following common myths people have about grief including:

Myth: Grief Happens In Stages
Actually, grief is experienced in “waves” or in a cyclical way; having “good days” or “not-so-good” days being used to describe the experience.

Myth: Grief Is The Same For Everyone (Men, Women, Adults, Children)
In fact, grief is very individual so try to avoid comparing your experience of grief with others.

Myth: Time Will Heal All Wounds- It Should Take About a Year
The truth is, different aspects of grief take different amounts of time

Myth: Time Heals All Wounds – Just Wait It Out
Instead, grief involves active self-care, efforts to adapt, & learning new skills – all of which takes a lot of time. Waiting till it “passes” is not helpful. Get help when you need it.

Myth: Grief Involves Saying Goodbye and achieving “Resolution” of Your Grief
The reality for us all is, when we lose someone, we keep that relationship bond even though they are no longer with us. We may go to their grave, “chat” to them, or imagine the loved one’s response to an event or situation.

Dr. Jordan shared a helpful metaphor about how living with grief was like carrying a boulder. We can’t ever really “put it down” but we do what we can to make our backs stronger and manage it better. We use support, self care, counseling and other tools to find our way to a “new normal."

However, there are other factors to consider when reaching out to someone who has lost a loved one to suicide as it generates it’s own unique set of confusing thoughts and feelings:
Survivors struggle with “why” questions as they try to make sense of the death

  • Sense of responsibility along with feelings of guilt and blame
  • Your family can experience social disruption and that can lead to isolation
  • Many survivors feel intense feelings of shame and the stigma may block their ability to reach out and ask for help
  • For many, anger is a very normal, if confusing, response as those left behind can feel rejection and abandonment.

When we see all these factors that survivors struggle with after a suicide, it is clear we, as a community, have an opportunity to reach out and make it easier for survivors to talk, find help and get the support they need to learn to live without their loved one.

Dr. Jordan has some wonderful resources to share on his website, including information on his own book “Grief After Suicide." Visit his website here: http://www.johnjordanphd.com/publications.html

If you are having difficulty finding a suitable resource for yourself or a friend/loved one, please don’t hesitate to call Danielle Owen, in confidence, at 617-542-7654 ext. 14. Additionally, we plan to have more suicide prevention trainings in the Fall.

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