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Impact of Language on Survivors of Loss Helping Clinical Professionals, Clergy & Gatekeepers use appropriate language with persons who are Survivors of.

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Presentation on theme: "Impact of Language on Survivors of Loss Helping Clinical Professionals, Clergy & Gatekeepers use appropriate language with persons who are Survivors of."— Presentation transcript:

1 Impact of Language on Survivors of Loss Helping Clinical Professionals, Clergy & Gatekeepers use appropriate language with persons who are Survivors of Suicide Loss as they grieve

2 What to Say: How to Help Someone Coping with a Loss Due to Suicide Donald P. Belau, Ph.D. Lincoln/Lancaster LOSS Team Clinical Director donald.belau@doane.edu 402-759-0573

3 Overview A way to deal with the Why?? LOSS Teams’ power of influence through interactions 7 Keys to Using Healing Language Role Playing--practice Tips in dealing with children & youth grief that can be shared with adult survivors 3

4 Why? Sudden Death leading to the Unanswerable "Why?" Trying to make sense of or understand sudden losses can be difficult. Survivors are left asking "Why?" "Why did this happen?" 4

5 Why? The suicide of a loved one are beyond anyone's control; they are a sudden, unexplainable loss. 5

6 Why? It is human nature to want to answer the question "Why?" yet it may be difficult if not impossible to find an answer. Instead the question "Why?" is more of a plea for meaning and understanding. 6

7 Ways to Help There are many possible perspectives for coping with this difficult question: When death has shaken your faith, "Why?" "Why must my life be filled with sorrow?" "Why?“ “Why did this have to happen?” 7

8 Ways to Help There are no pat answers. No one completely understands the mystery of death. Even if the question were answered, Would the pain be eased, your loneliness less terrible? 8

9 Ways to Help "Why" is more than a question. It may be an agonizing cry for a heart-breaking loss, an expression of distress or anger, disappointment, bewilderment, alienation, and betrayal. 9

10 Ways to Help There is no answer that bridges the chasm of irreparable separation. 10

11 Ways to Help There is no satisfactory response for an unresolvable dilemma. Not all questions have complete answers. Unanswered "Why's" are part of life. 11

12 Ways to Help The search for answers may continue but the real question might be: "How [do I] pick up the pieces and go on living as meaningful as possible?“ 12

13 Ways to Help Assure survivors that is permissible to ask why as often as needed—until one day—the urge to ask why declines. This may mean the journey of acceptance has began. 13

14 LOSS Teams’ Influence Seeking help when you are ready is a sign of strength, and the ability to move forward. LOSS Teams can facilitate this process by using language that has evidence to support the its use. Training & practice of these language skills allows for the LOSS Team to be effective in assisting survivors in moving forward. 14

15 Ways to Help How does one know they are ready to seek help? – Tricky question – Not really!! – Key is the LOSS team visit 15

16 LOSS Team Interactions The visit of the LOSS team has multiple purposes & the language skills used can: – Instill hope by personalizing themselves – Inform as to self-care, coping & the uniqueness of grief – Provide a sense of connectedness – Offer support and referrals to resources – Use of the power of invitation – Reduce self-imposed isolation 16

17 Hope Hello, I am ………… I am sorry for your loss. We are here to provide any support or answer any questions that you might have. Can I get you anything? What is the most pressing concern you have? Each of us have lost someone to suicide, and are willing to share whatever time you need now and later, even if it is days or weeks from now. 17

18 Hope What not to say--- I understand what you are going through. He/She is no longer in pain Things will get better, I know it 18

19 Self-care & Grief Promote self-care by acknowledging the draw to drinking or self-medicating—but pointing out this can impair relationships, judgment, etc. What do you do to relax? What are your interests, hobbies, etc.? 19

20 Self-care & Grief Offer the idea of seeking help via support groups, counseling, faith leaders, friends, and family. Speak openly that some will experience ‘grief bursts’, and that they will decrease with time 20

21 Self-care & Grief What not to say: It is ok to tie one on—you will feel better. Crying is normal, everyone does it. Everyone goes through stages of grief—over and over. 21

22 Connectedness Explore safe conversation by connecting with visual artifacts or pictures I see that your family/you liked to….. Use observable strengths, talents, to build a bridge 22

23 Connectedness What not to say: I don’t see any pictures of ………… Were you close? Any intrusive statements that could be viewed as probing 23

24 Support & the Power of Invitation Ask for permission to follow up— Would you mind if I or some member of the team check in with you? There are support groups available, would you mind if I called you to see if you able to attend a support group with me or fellow LOSS team member? 24

25 Support & the Power of Invitation What not to say: There is a support group meeting on ….. at …. I will be checking up on you to see how you are doing 25

26 Reducing Self-imposed Isolation Reinforce the power of connecting with others as this promotes healing and reducing the natural response to isolate with one’s misery and pain 26

27 Reducing Self-imposed Isolation Engagement in simple activities, often with peers who have had losses as well will promote healing Participating in community-based walks and activities that draw attention to suicide prevention, and postvention activities. 27

28 Reducing Self-imposed Isolation What not to say: Everyone needs to get involved in something If you don’t get active, you will suffer the consequences 28

29 7 Keys to Using Healing Language

30 Promote Respectfulness Strive to be Nonjudgmental Be calm & relax before engaging in the visit—take several deep, cleansing breathes Use clear short phrases with emphasis upon open ended questions Focus on listening with your inner ear Use rich nonverbal communication Monitor the emotion of the visitation experience & look for a safe, positive exit within a 45-60 minute period of time 30

31 Promote Respectfulness

32 Strive to be Nonjudgmental

33 Be calm & relax before engaging in the visit—take several deep, cleansing breathes

34 Use clear short phrases with emphasis upon open ended questions

35 Focus on listening with your inner ear

36 Use rich nonverbal communication

37 Monitor the emotion of the visitation experience & look for a safe, positive exit within a 45-60 minute period of time

38 Practice Role Playing

39 Supportive Comments Focusing Upon Self-care

40 Supportive Comments Letting the survivor know that there will be days that will drag on, painfully slow—that they can move through those days by focusing on one hour at a time, by reaching out even if they do not have the energy. 40

41 Supportive Comments The power of normalcy is healing—using terms such as---”most people will feel drained”, most people find ways of connecting” 41

42 Supportive Comments Looking to connect with the survivor builds bridges by commenting upon environmental clues to build a relationship. 42

43 Supportive Comments If a survivor, explain briefly your loss. 43

44 Supportive Comments If a clinician, acknowledge your interest. 44

45 Supportive Comments If a friend or peer, reach out with simple courtesy. 45

46 Supportive Comments Finding a routine is critical 46

47 Supportive Comments Consider journaling as a way to move forward through your grief and pain which allows healing to begin Share your feelings and thoughts as often as you need 47

48 Supportive Comments Others??? 48

49 Supportive Comments Focusing Upon Coping

50 Basics on Coping for the Survivor It is important for the grieving person to take care of him/herself following a sudden loss. He/she is dealing with an event that is beyond his/her control. 50

51 Basics on Coping for the Survivor One way of helping is to do things that help re-establish the person’s sense of control over their world. It is also important to focus on the basics the body needs for day-to-day survival: 51

52 Basics on Coping for the Survivor Maintain a normal routine. Even if it is difficult to do regular activities, try to anyway. Putting more structure into a daily routine will help one to feel more in control. 52

53 Basics on Coping for the Survivor Get enough sleep, at least plenty of rest. It may be helpful to keep lists, write notes, or keep a schedule. Try and get some regular exercise. This can help relieve stress and tension. 53

54 Basics on Coping for the Survivor Drink alcohol in moderation. – Alcohol should not be used as a way of masking the pain. Do what comforts, sustains & recharges. 54

55 Basics on Coping for the Survivor Help the survivor remember other difficult times and how they have survived them. Encourage them to draw upon the inner strength which may be quiet for now, but can emerge. Remind them to take it one hour at a time, one day at a time when feeling panicked or overwhelmed. 55

56 Basics on Coping for the Survivor Encourage them to keep a balanced diet. – Watch out for junk food, or high calorie comfort food binges. Ask them to drink plenty of water. – Give them lemon drops which stimulates thirst – The survivor has been weeping, and needs to replenish their liquids.. 56

57 Children & Youth Grief

58 “A child’s life is forever changed and very different following a sudden traumatic loss of a loved one.”

59 Language with Children & Youth A key is to anticipate developmental differences and to respond accordingly with verbal and nonverbal skills. 59

60 Concrete Tips for Dealing With Youth Grief Change creates loss and loss creates grief. These changes can be frightening for children and teens. 60

61 Concrete Tips for Dealing With Youth Grief Children and teens may experience a wide range of emotions. They need love and support to help them cope with the grief associated with change and loss. 61

62 Concrete Tips for Dealing With Youth Grief All too often, many caregivers are too overwhelmed by their own shock, sadness and grief to notice their children are grieving too. 62

63 Concrete Tips for Dealing With Youth Grief For children, as adults, there is no magic wand in overcoming grief. 63

64 Concrete Tips for Dealing With Youth Grief Grief is a process; it is as individual as the people going through it are. The stages of grief are not linear. 64

65 Concrete Tips for Dealing With Youth Grief There will be ups and downs, peaks and valleys and the inevitable bumps in the road. Shock, denial, anger, regression, guilt, bargaining and finally acceptance are the myriad of emotions that are part of the healing process called grief. 65

66 Concrete Tips for Dealing With Children’s Grief & Curiosity A grieving child needs reassurance that he/she will be cared for and is loved. It is important to take the time to discuss the loss with children in developmentally appropriate language giving no more than the information they asked for, which will allow them to process at their own speed. 66

67 Concrete Tips for Dealing With Children’s Grief It is extremely important to listen to the child verbalize their fears, anger, confusion and doubts. Grief and the feelings it evokes are natural responses to loss. 67

68 Concrete Tips for Dealing With Youth Grief Children & Youth should be encouraged to let their sadness out by sharing their thoughts, feelings and memories with trusted listeners. 68

69 Concrete Tips for Dealing With Youth Grief One can become a trusted listener by encouraging them to express themselves though drawing, writing and sharing their feelings and thoughts; this can be enhanced through the process of keeping a journal. 69

70 Concrete Tips for Dealing With Grief For some children keeping a journal is a wonderful way to facilitate the grieving process. Encourage them to draw about their feelings, to create "heart art." 70

71 Concrete Tips for Dealing With Grief Young children think symbolically rather than with the use of written words. Pictures help to reveal a child’s thinking. Drawing actually helps children find their words as they describe what they have drawn, or tell a story about the art. 71

72 Concrete Tips for Dealing With Grief In addition, journal exercises can provide opportunities for gentle discussions and can offer insights into a child’s fears and misconceptions. Keeping a journal allows children to creatively express themselves. Their drawings can be used as a springboard for caring conversations. 72

73 Concrete Tips for Dealing With Grief For children and teens, writing in a journal can give them permission to record their feelings and emotions. It allows them to feel close to their loved one and remember happier times. 73

74 Concrete Tips for Dealing With Grief It also provides an opportunity to say good- bye. This is a very important step towards acceptance in the grieving process. 74

75 Concrete Tips for Dealing With Youth Grief Adults may also want to work in their own journal with the youth as well. Keeping a journal will provide an opportunity to record feelings, thoughts and memories of the loved one. This simple technique is one of the most empowering and healing acts a person can do. 75

76 Concrete Tips for Dealing With Youth Grief In the journal one can write about feelings of anger, guilt, confusion, resentment, the sadness, loss, fears, as well as feelings about the family and loved one. 76

77 Concrete Tips for Dealing With Youth Grief Keeping a journal can create a tremendous modeling resource for children or teens: modeling desired behavior is a powerful teaching tool. 77

78 Concrete Tips for Dealing With Grief Creating a journal also can create a connection to the loved one. The journaling process, like grief, is not linear. 78

79 Concrete Tips for Dealing With Grief Revisiting entries at a later time is an important step in being able to accept and go forward with your life. Keeping a journal provides adults children and teens with a cherished piece of memorabilia that may be helpful to revisit periodically within the grieving process. 79

80 Concrete Tips for Dealing With Grief Creating a Memory Box or Memory Bag is a powerful method to maintain a connection for children & youth that can be with them for years. Many LOSS Teams provide such a method! 80

81 Concrete Tips for Dealing With Grief Encouraging children & youth to participate in a peer group with others who have had sudden losses as well is a step towards healing by reinforcing the thought that they are not alone. 81

82 Concrete Tips for Dealing With Children’s Grief Remember children are also experiencing life. They are not in a "getting ready" phase. They are "living it." 82

83 Concrete Tips for Dealing With Children’s Grief Coping with the loss of a loved one can be one of the most difficult challenges adults and children will ever face. 83

84 Concrete Tips for Dealing With Children’s Grief To understand the grieving process and to be guided through the stages of grief by the loving gentle hands of a caring, compassionate adult empowers children and teens and helps them to cope with the process more effectively. 84

85 Final Thoughts for Dealing With Children & Youth Grief Teaching our children and youth to cope with grief and loss provides them with important coping skills that will serve them well the rest of their lives. Keeping a journal and developing Memory Boxes/Bags are simple, powerful tools for those facing difficult issues of the heart. 85

86 Donald P. Belau, Ph.D. Lincoln/Lancaster LOSS Team Clinical Director donald.belau@doane.edu 402-759-0573


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