The impact of losing someone to suicide can be intense and overwhelming. You may experience a wide range of thoughts and feelings which are difficult to understand and to manage.
Talking about suicide with those whom we love and or care for is more important today than ever. For the purposes of this article, we are referring to a period after a suicide event.
Shame and guilt are often associated with those bereaved or impacted by suicide. Shame that someone has decided that death is better than the alternative and guilt that we 'should' have reached out to them. We 'should' have seen the signs. This is normal to feel and experience.
It can be very challenging for adults to know what to say to children following a suicide. Adults may find it difficult to tell children what has happened, however, communicating clearly with children is helpful to them in dealing with their grief and in feeling safe and secure.
Children will tend to be aware that something is happening that they don't know about; they may hear half-truths or exaggerated details from other children. For these reasons, it is advisable that children are given information from a trusted adult who cares for them.
Effective communication that is clear and honest helps to reassure children that someone will take care of them physically and emotionally. It also helps to create a renewed sense of safety, security and trust. It is preferable to use language that is familiar to the child, that they will understand and that is comfortable for you.
Children tend to grieve differently to adults. Their grief will be intermittent, they will move in and out of the experience, and at times, may appear unaffected by what has happened. It is also important to remember that children will continue to grieve as they encounter new stages of their development. This means that as their emotional and cognitive abilities develop they will express their grief in new ways and they will have different questions which may require different or more complex answers. (Jesuit Social Service, 2019, Support After Suicide)
Wimmera PCP is working closely with the Wimmera's Victoria Police members to ensure there is a pathway for support for those left behind, following a suicide. Wimmera PCP's Aboriginal Health Project Officer, Felicity Johns said, "kids left behind often fall through the gaps because there isn't a specific service for them, especially if they are under 12. I hope we can support anyone impacted by suicide with local resources and services as soon as possible before it all gets too much."
If anyone wishes to contribute to the discussion about supporting our communities after a suicide, you can contact Felicity on 0421 250 428 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.