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close this bookPreventing Suicide: How to Start a Survivors Group (WHO, 2000, 50 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentForeword
View the documentThe importance of self-help support groups
View the documentSurviving a suicide
View the documentImpact of suicide
View the documentSources of help for the bereaved
View the documentHow to initiate a self-help support group for survivors of suicide
View the documentDeveloping the operational framework for the group
View the documentIdentifying and gaining access to resources to support the group
View the documentGauging success
View the documentPotential risk factors for the group
View the documentSurvivor support in developing countries and rural areas
View the documentSurvivor support through “involvement therapy” in other activities
View the documentBack cover

Surviving a suicide

The journey of a suicide survivor after the loss of a significant loved one can be excruciatingly painful, devastating and traumatic. Cultural, religious and social taboos surrounding suicide can make this journey all the more difficult. An understanding and knowledge of factors relating to suicide will assist the survivor along the road to recovery and make the experience less bewildering and frightening. Some of the deaths may have been anticipated, but most survivors are faced with a death that is unexpected and often violent. Shock and disbelief are generally the initial reactions to the news. The reality of the loss will gradually penetrate, and a variety of feelings will emerge. These feelings may range from anger to guilt, denial, confusion and rejection.

Past experiences from childhood and adolescence to adulthood have a great impact on how individuals are able to handle loss in the present. Automatic responses will surface and take over to a certain degree. Gaining an understanding of the impact that intense grief has on everyday functioning will also assist in working through the complex emotions that accompany the loss.

Physical, behavioural, emotional and social reactions may remain with the individual in varying degrees for periods ranging from months to years. The aim of survivors will be to “survive”, initially from day to day, and eventually to resume life having learned to live with the loss and adjusting their lives accordingly. In the early stages of grief this does not seem possible; survivors are consumed with thoughts of their loved ones and with often strong feelings of “wanting to join them”. With the loss of a significant loved one the survivors often experience changes in their values or belief systems and emerge from the experience as different people. Self-help support groups for suicide survivors can assist individuals to grow with the changes that confront them.