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1 GRIEF AFTER SUICIDE: The Journey of Survivors John R. Jordan, Ph.D. Pawtucket, RI.

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Presentation on theme: "1 GRIEF AFTER SUICIDE: The Journey of Survivors John R. Jordan, Ph.D. Pawtucket, RI."— Presentation transcript:

1 1 GRIEF AFTER SUICIDE: The Journey of Survivors John R. Jordan, Ph.D. Pawtucket, RI

2 2 Overview Introduction Suicide “101” Common Myths About Grief How Is Grief After Suicide Different? How Can I Survive? Wrap-up

3 3 Suicide Epidemiology Males Complete Suicide at a Rate 4 Times That Of Females Highest Suicide Rates Are Generally for Elderly, Isolated Males Highest # Suicide Completions Are for Middle- aged Males Ethnicity In both U.S. & Canada, highest rates by far are for Indigenous Peoples 90% Have Diagnosable Psychiatric Disorder - Most Often Mood Disorders

4 4 Suicide Epidemiology Suicide Is A Public Health Problem About 38,000 Completions/ Year in U.S. - 2010 700,000 – 1,000,000 Attempts/ Year in U.S. 20-25 attempts for every completion Worldwide - Nearly 1 Million Completions/ Year, 20 Million Attempts/ Year 10 th Leading Cause Of Death in U.S., 3 rd For Young People (15-24)

5 5 Suicide Etiology: Suicide as the “Perfect Storm” Genetic Factors Biological Factors Low neurotransmitters Certain medical disorders Epilepsy TBI Personality Past Experience Trauma

6 6 Suicide Etiology: Suicide as the “Perfect Storm” Life Stressors Interpersonal loss (particularly suicide) Role status loss Interpersonal Connectedness Social Issues Opportunity/ Access to Means

7 7 Common Myths About Grief Myth: Grief Happens In Stages Instead, grief is cyclical or wave-like Myth: Grief Is The Same For Everyone (Men, Women, Adults, Children) Instead, grief is very individual

8 8 Common Myths About Grief Myth: Time Heals All Wounds - It Should Take About a Year Instead, different aspects of grief take different amounts of time There are significant individual differences What matters is the direction of the trend, not the time it takes Myth: Time Heals All Wounds – Just Wait It Out Instead, grief involves active self-care Grief involves acquisition of new skills of caring for yourself after emotional injury

9 9 Common Myths About Grief Myth: Grief Involves Saying Good- Bye and Achieving “Resolution” of Your Grief Instead, we keep continuing bonds with our dead “Your task is not to let go, it is to find a different way to hold on” Goal = learning to “carry the boulder”, not “put it down”


11 11 Prominent Themes For Survivors WHY? - Making Sense of the Death RESPONSIBILITY - Guilt & Blame SOCIAL DISRUPTION - Isolation SHAME - Stigma ANGER - Rejection & Abandonment

12 12 Prominent Themes For Survivors TRAUMA - Shock & Horror RELIEF - The End Of Suffering SUICIDALITY – Why Go On? SORROW – Grief & Yearning

13 13 Prominent Themes For Survivors: Family Impact Information management – who to tell, and what Communication shut-down Trying not to upset others Anger/ conflict management Disruption of family routines/rituals Loss of cohesion

14 14 Prominent Themes For Survivors: Family Impact Coping Asynchrony - Differences in grieving styles & change in availability Blame/scapegoating Anxiety about it happening again (esp. for parents) – problems with separations – “Are we cursed?”

15 15 Post-Traumatic Growth After Suicide Changed identity Changed relations with others Changed outlook on life Growth

16 16 HOW CAN I SURVIVE? Self- Care Body Mind Spirit Educate Yourself About suicide About grief About trauma Lower Your Expectations “One day at a time” Be With People Who “Get-It”, Avoid Those Who Don’t Be wary of “know - it - alls” Be wary of “know – nothings” Be with people who walk along with you

17 17 How Can I Survive? Trial & Error Healing Expect coping differences - Go outside the family Multiple pathways towards healing Learn to “dose” your grief Try familiarity – re-establish routines Try novelty – try something new “Don’t Waste Your Grief” - Engage in activities that: Honor the life of your loved one Keep their memory alive Give a purpose and focus to your grief Be Patient Have Faith in Your Resilience!

18 18 When to Seek Professional Help The trend of your grief is more important than the speed Up is “green” Flat is “yellow” Down is “red” When coping methods are self or other-destructive Particularly, suicidality PTSD symptoms Intrusive re-living Avoidance (getting worse) Physically “wired” or “emotional numbness”

19 19 When to Seek Professional Help Prolonged Grief Disorder Unending grief/ yearning Trouble re-investing in life Loss of meaning/purpose Prolonged difficulty with acceptance of the reality Severe depression Anhedonia (inability to feel pleasure) is getting worse Sleep, appetite, energy staying dysregulated Loss of functionality Active suicidality Others are consistently saying “Please get some help”

20 20 Types of Help for Survivors Survivor outreach programs Survivor to Survivor Network Samaritans – Individual therapy Family/Couples counseling Support groups SafePlace groups Samaritans – Activism


22 22 How Can Friends, Families, & Communities Help? When in Doubt, Reach Out! Offer the “Gift of Presence” Don’t assume you know what this means “Don’t say too much” Offer Assistance Practical help Help find resources Stay in for the long haul Keep in touch – be available, but not intrusive Keep asking “How is this for you? Remember anniversaries

23 23 How Can Friends, Families, & Communities Help? Education of first responders Education of clinicians Support development of community resources Information for new survivors Outreach teams Linkages between survivors Eg., AFSP National Survivor Day Conference Opportunities for activism Eg., Community Suicide Prevention Council Support groups

24 24 Wrap-Up Questions? Comments?

25 25 3 WISHES – Over Time, That You Will Be Able To: Make Your Peace With the Suicide Remember and Honor the Life of Your Loved One Find Courage, Strength, & Serenity as You Go Forward

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