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Why Join a Support Group?



"One often calms one's grief by recounting it." ~ Pierre Corneille

A recent medical study that examined what suicide survivors found most helpful to their healing, rated  "Talking one-to-one with another suicide survivor" (100%) and participating in a "Suicide grief support group" (94%) as the two most helpful activities for survivors.  Participating in a suicide support group allows you the opportunity to experience both of these activities at once.  

The World Health Organization stresses the importance of self-help support groups for those bereaved by suicide
 
"Suicide survivors report more frequent feelings of responsibility for the death, rejection and abandonment than those who have lost someone from natural causes. Feelings of stigmatization, shame and embarrassment set them apart from those who grieve a non-suicidal death. The survivor is more likely to spend a greater proportion of time pondering on the motives of the person who committed suicide, the question “why” being continually present. The universal assumption that parents are responsible for their children’s actions can also place parents who have lost a child by suicide in a situation of moral and social dilemma. There are more taboos attached to the discussion of suicide than to any other form of death. Those bereaved by suicide often find it very difficult to admit that the death of their loved one was by suicide, and people often feel  talking about the suicide with them. Those bereaved by suicide therefore have less opportunity to talk about their grief than other bereaved people. A support group can assist greatly, as a lack of communication can delay the healing process. 
 
The coming together of those bereaved by suicide can provide the opportunity to be with other people who can really understand, because they have been through the same experience; to gain strength and understanding from the individuals within the group, but also to provide the same to others. 
 
The group can provide: 
    • a sense of community and support; 
    • an empathetic environment and give a sense of belonging when the bereaved person feels disassociated from the rest of the world; 
    • the hope that “normality” can be reached eventually; 
    • experience in dealing with difficult anniversaries or special occasions; 
    • opportunities to learn new ways of approaching problems; 
    • a sounding board to discuss fears and concerns;  
    • a setting where free expression of grief is acceptable, confidentiality is observed, and compassion and non-judgemental attitudes prevail. 
The group may also take on an educational role, providing information on the grief process, on facts relating to suicide, and on the roles of various health professionals. Another major function is that of empowerment - of providing a positive focus enabling the individuals to regain some control over their lives. One of the most devastating aspects of a suicidal or accidental death is that there is invariably much unfinished business and many unanswered questions, and yet the individual can see no way of resolving the situation. The support of a group can often gradually dissolve the feelings of hopelessness and provide the means whereby control can be regained." 


The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has the following ideas about attending suicide support groups:
"If you have lost a loved one to suicide, you may find it helpful to connect with others who have also experienced a suicide loss. It can be a relief to talk openly about suicide with people who share a similar experience.

Groups provide a “safe place” where those who have been touched by suicide loss can share their thoughts and feelings, and offer one another support.

What to Expect:
  • It is natural to feel unsure about going to your first support group meeting. It may take a few meetings before you feel comfortable.
  • Some people attend a support group almost immediately after their loss, while others wait for years. Do what you feel is best for you .
  • Some survivors attend regularly for a year or two, then continue to go only occasionally.
  • If you attend a group and feel it’s not right for you, consider trying a different group. We all cope differently and draw strength from different various kinds of support."