Bereavement due to suicide

Self-help groups, conferences and helplines

There are many sources of support for those bereaved by suicide, but some people had not heard about them until many months after the suicide – or had only found out by chance when a helpline number was given after a programme, or through a newspaper article. Bereavement services can put people in touch with groups and help-lines, or people find them on the internet.

Many people we talked to went to self-help groups run either by Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide or by Compassionate Friends. Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide exist to meet the needs and break the isolation of bereaved people. Compassionate Friends is an organisation of bereaved parents and their families offering understanding and support to others after the death of a child. Some people who had lost children found that Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide suited their needs while others preferred groups run by Compassionate friends.

One woman wanted to join a self-help group because her counsellor said she “was getting stuck” and expected her to “move on”, which she thought was a bit harsh. She could not find a group of Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide in her area but has recently found a local group of Compassionate Friends.

After Melanie’s husband died she phoned the Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide helpline every day during the first few months. She found the helpline very useful, and said that just to talk to someone who had been bereaved by suicide was “amazing”, but pointed out that the people at the other end of the phone were volunteers and varied in their ability to help. She went to her first Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide group meeting three weeks after Simon’s death.

After the death of his ex-partner, Stuart used helplines from many organisations, including Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide. Sometimes he found it frustrating because he found he was talking to a different person each time. However, he liked the group meetings he attended.

Some people took a while to find out about support groups in their area; others could not find a group nearby. If they found a local group most people said that they found the meetings very helpful.
However, some people found meetings held by Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide or by Compassionate Friends very depressing. Some felt they did not fit into the group or wondered if they had attended meetings at the right stage in the grieving process. It should be noted that group meetings are dependent on the facilitator and the participants, who will often change from month to month. This will affect the group's dynamics and atmosphere.
Some people we talked to had attended support days/ conferences and “retreats” run by Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide. The day conferences offer people the opportunity to meet others bereaved by suicide, with the aim of gaining support and help by sharing feelings in a constructive and positive atmosphere. Linda had not been to a group meeting because the nearest group was too far away for her to attend, but she found the conference really useful.
Some people we talked to had started support groups or were helping to run groups, conferences or retreats. Ann, for example, started a support group in her area, which is linked to Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide. Meetings are held in a lovely hotel. She did not want to have meetings in a dark church hall or any other old building because she wanted an uplifting atmosphere. Mike also helped to set up a support group and has been helping those bereaved by suicide for years. Patricia also started a local group and has been involved in running conferences and retreats. Recently she helped to organise a Thanksgiving service in Tewksbury Abbey.
Some of the younger people we talked to had found help via the WAY foundation. This is an organisation for the ‘Widowed and Young’, which supports men and women widowed (not necessarily by suicide) under the age of 50. The organisation is structured around local support groups and has a website, (also see ‘Help and information through the internet’). Typical events include pub evenings for adults, picnics and park days out with children, meals in restaurants and 'at home' evenings in members' houses where you can get to know other members in relaxed surroundings.
People may not wish to join a support group. Felicity (Interview 02), for example, said that she was appalled at the idea of sitting round in a group with other people who had been bereaved by suicide. She found help in other ways (see ‘Help from Cruse Bereavement Care’)

Last reviewed July 2017.
Last updated January 2015.

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