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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.
 

Almost two years after Rose died Susan decided she wanted to talk to other people who had been...

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Almost two years after Rose died Susan decided she wanted to talk to other people who had been...

Age at interview: 54
Sex: Female
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Just recently you’ve been put in touch with Compassionate Friends, did anybody mention them or any other support groups a long time ago?


Yes I … at the beginning I had the … I had the number for SOBS, Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide and the Compassionate Friends. I did nothing for a very, very, very long time. Well until about it, it … I mean it’ll be two years in November. And I should think I made contact with SOBS first, earlier this summer, maybe in the spring. But I rang and there’s absolutely no branch of a support group here in [this county of England]. In fact the person I spoke to didn’t know where [this county] was. I was actually just so appalled by it because it had taken a lot of courage to ring. And I’ve … I felt I was opening myself up by ringing and to get a response which was so … it wasn’t negative. It was idiotic. So that was the end of that. And I thought well I won’t approach anybody anymore.

 

And then suddenly a few weeks ago I felt I really needed to talk to someone or people in the same position as me because other people seemed to be “moving on”, not only my friends but my family. And I … my counsellor had pointed out to me actually she thought I was getting stuck … which I thought actually for eighteen months on was a bit odd really. Frankly I thought it was a bit harsh. But maybe she was trying a technique of moving me on.

 

So I rang the Compassionate Friends, and I must say they have been; I haven’t been to a meeting yet. But there is a group up here. And they were tremendously sympathetic and kind and immediately sent me literature and that did make me feel, yes I’m not alone.

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.

 

Melanie found Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide very helpful. She used the telephone help-line and she attended SOBS meetings once or twice a month. The groups have been her 'lifeline'.

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Melanie found Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide very helpful. She used the telephone help-line and she attended SOBS meetings once or twice a month. The groups have been her 'lifeline'.

Age at interview: 45
Sex: Female
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The Coroner was magnificent. He sent me so much literature and contained within the literature was a leaflet for the Widowed and Young group. I discovered the Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide organisations through that, going onto the websites and then searching around.. I phoned their helpline I think every day if not twice a day in those first few weeks and months just to talk to someone else who’d been bereaved by suicide was amazing. And I attended my first SOBS meeting in London three weeks after Simon died.


And did you find that helpful?


Yes I did. I cried and talked an awful lot but again that feeling of, what am I doing here? I shouldn’t be here. But just to meet other people.


Can you explain what happened at that meeting, just for other people who might be thinking about whether or not to go to a meeting?


The meeting, at that point it was facilitated by a lady from Cruse who hadn’t been bereaved by suicide but had been leading the group for several years and led it beautifully and guided it wonderfully. And basically you’d go round and you’d say who you’d lost and when you’d lost them. And she explained the confidentiality; that things said in that room were to go no further. And then it was just, almost as the spirit moved you. You spoke about your grief and if something you said moved somebody else they would say their piece. The lady who facilitated the group was very careful not to let people talk over one another. She also allowed everyone, if they wanted to, to say what they wanted. Eighteen months down this path I sort of liken those meetings to almost the meetings that my husband should have gone to; Alcoholics or Debtors Anonymous meetings. We who’ve been through it and apparently survived can help those who are starting off. So it’s not like, “Hello Melanie I’m an alcoholic”, it’s, “Hello Melanie I’m a widow and I’ve been bereaved by suicide”.


Yes. How often did you go to those groups?


Every month. And I also started going to the groups in [area] because although we’re lucky enough to have a group in [county name], their meetings are once a month but the way that they worked out I was going to a meeting every fortnight, once in [name] and once in central London. And they were my, and continue to be my lifeline.


And when you rang up you said you were ringing was it SOBS?


SOBS yes.


What sort of response did you get when you rang?


Well it varied. Everyone was completely supportive. The ability of the person on the other end varied because they are only volunteers. They’re not counsellors as such. And sometimes you felt more connected with one particular person than another, but just to know that you weren’t going mad.

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.

 

Stuart found some help-lines frustrating. He had to keep repeating his story. He found Winston's...

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Stuart found some help-lines frustrating. He had to keep repeating his story. He found Winston's...

Age at interview: 40
Sex: Male
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So what sort of experiences have you had ringing up these help-lines?


Some have been totally bizarre. There’s been one helpline where I’ve phoned up and somebody tried to tell me all their problems [laughs] which actually worked in a way because it distracted me from anything that I had to talk about and I just thought, “Oh please shut up so I can get off the phone” [laughs]. And I had another one where somebody was convinced I’d phoned up before, and I had an argument with her about whether or not I’d phoned up before; that was the one through work and it was just a completely and utterly bizarre [laughs] and it was just, and it, it was quite amusing actually, but not at the time.


Which ones have you found helpful then?


Winston’s Wish have been really, really helpful because, you get to go and, if you’re lucky then you can apply to go on a weekend, through being bereaved through suicide, and that can be very helpful, and also the fact that they know you as an individual, that’s the thing that makes a difference. Yes, some [help-lines] are just frustrating because they’re well-intentioned but it’s just you get different people all the time and you feel as though there’s no connection with you and they keep saying, “Oh try and talk about things.” And you just, “Oh”.


So if you ring Winston’s Wish, they’ll remember who you are or?


Yes they have like a case on you…


Oh that’s good.


…which is really helpful, and that’s what makes a really big difference being able to speak to someone, when you need, to who actually knows some background information.


You haven’t got to go over it all again?


Yes, yeah and that’s the problem with a lot of the helplines, well virtually all of them you’ve got to go over everything again, and it’s so frustrating to have to do that.


I can see that.


Yes, and again you can’t sort of progress and you sort of, well you can’t record any progress that you made with them so you just feel as though you’re just on the same old loophole, and finding things really difficult. Rather than if you phone up someone like Winston’s Wish they say, “Wow well, you are finding things difficult but I can see that you’ve moved forward.”

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.
 

It took Steve months to find out about Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide. He now goes to meetings about once a month. Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide has helped Steve tremendously because he knows that he is not alone.

It took Steve months to find out about Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide. He now goes to meetings about once a month. Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide has helped Steve tremendously because he knows that he is not alone.

Age at interview: 37
Sex: Male
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I needed to speak to people who knew how I felt in my heart really. And so the one thing that the bereavement service were able to do for me was to put me in touch with a, like a self-help group that meets locally every month and it’s specifically for people who have been bereaved by suicide. And that’s helped tremendously.


Is that SOBS?

 

Yes it is. I didn’t know if I could mention the name, yes SOBS. I go to SOBS every month if I can. It’s difficult now I work so far away but I try and go as often as I can.. Straight away, my first meeting at SOBS I realised that actually no I’m not alone. There were quite a number of people who had been bereaved by suicide. There was somebody else there whose relative had stepped in front of a train so she knew very specifically how I felt. And they were all so, so caring. They understood. Things that I felt quite difficult to share with other people, it was easy to share with them because they knew. They knew how I felt. They knew how I was feeling. They were able to help me prepare myself for the inquest. They are a tremendous help. They are a wonderful group of people.

 

Do they meet every week?

 

Every month.

 

Every month?

 

Yeah.

 

You try and go every month?

 

I try yeah. And unfortunately there, there are new, new people regularly who, who’ve got a relative or a friend, somebody they know who have taken their own life. And the last meeting we went to there were a couple of new, new people there and it took me back to how I was feeling at the time which is upsetting, very emotionally draining but then on reflection it’s a very healthy thing to do, to share experiences and to feel the way I did because it makes me realise that my sister is still here almost. It makes me feel close to her and it’s good that I can, I can share my experiences with these people who are recently bereaved by suicide.


By talking about her you feel you are closer to her?

 

Yes.

 

And I can’t, I can’t elaborate on that. I can’t explain that to you but it makes me feel good. It makes me feel that I’m keeping her spirit alive. And the way I, I talk to her now. I mean I imagine conversations with her. You know I imagine she’s there in the car with me some days when I’m missing her more than other times. And I speak, you know I speak normally as if she were there. And that helps me and it may, it may seem quite an odd, I suppose it’s a coping mechanism, a coping strategy but it helps me because I do still really miss her and I still feel so much pain.

 

And SOBS help tremendously. But I had to wait quite a few months until they; I didn’t have to wait, it took months for anybody to actually suggest them to me and it was, it wasn’t actually the bereavement service who knew of SOBS. It was through a friend who works at another hospital whose bereavement officer had suggested them to her and she told me, otherwise I wouldn’t have known about them. And I may still have been in a state of turmoil but they’ve really helped.

 

Steve explains what happens at a typical Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide meeting in his area. After he lost his sister by suicide he found the group very helpful.

Steve explains what happens at a typical Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide meeting in his area. After he lost his sister by suicide he found the group very helpful.

Age at interview: 37
Sex: Male
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What happens at a typical meeting? Do people just talk about whatever they feel like?


Yeah. Yeah there’s no, there’s no pressure at all. There’s a group leader or there are two group leaders really, and most of us know each other now because it’s regular people that go. But if there is somebody new then we generally, the leader will introduce themselves and say that it isn’t a counselling group. It is a self-help type group and they will tell them about their bereavement. And then you go round and speak about yourself and your bereavement if you want to. You don’t have to. And then we talk about experiences and how we are feeling at the moment. If there’s a, an anniversary, a birthday or Christmas, a special occasion then we generally share experiences. And although it’s not a counselling group it feels supportive. We help each other through really and we have a cup of tea and, and we just talk. And you talk about however you’re feeling at the time if you want to. And it’s, although it doesn’t sound quite as dynamic I suppose but it is really, really helpful.

 

After her brother's death Kavita felt isolated. She saw Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide as a 'haven' away from the chaos and away from 'normal' people who didn't understand what she had been through.

After her brother's death Kavita felt isolated. She saw Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide as a 'haven' away from the chaos and away from 'normal' people who didn't understand what she had been through.

Age at interview: 41
Sex: Female
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But one day, just not long after his, literally two, three weeks after his death, I was out with my husband one evening because I’d started to say, well we should start to go out and try to do stuff really I suppose. And I think we’d been for dinner or came back home and switched on the TV. And there was a documentary going on about … I can’t remember which rock star it was … but it was about, this programme was about his suicide. And at the end of the programme, we only caught the last five minutes of this programme and I thought, “Oh I wished I’d seen the whole thing.” And how relevant, you know how relevant it was at that time.


Hmm.


It was amazing how it was a sign, you know. And at the end of the programme, the SOBS number came up.


Ah.


And that was that. I rang then straightaway, the next day I think, and they told me about their meetings and when they’re held. And I went to the next meeting which happened to be just the, the following week. And I can honestly say I remember going quite a few times after that. I’d go every month for the first, quite a few months. I might’ve missed the odd one, but I think I went quite a few times, in the initial stages. And they were … it was lifesaver. The first time I felt … there were people who had so much in common with me. I was not alone. Being in that group, it was, it was comforting because being in society and having to live with normal people was tough.


Hmm.


You felt very, I felt very isolated. People could not possibly understand what I was going through. And I didn’t, I sometime blamed them, sometime I didn’t. But even friends you know, some of them were there, some were not. But this group was this shelter, this haven in all that chaos you know, away from normal people. I remember thinking that when I was there. And I said it in the group as well. I said, “This is massive comfort, to get away from normal life and normal people and just focus on this thing is so, so important, so important”.

 

Compassionate Friends meet about once a month. After Helen lost her daughter the group made Helen...

Compassionate Friends meet about once a month. After Helen lost her daughter the group made Helen...

Age at interview: 53
Sex: Female
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Which other group did you join?


It was called the Compassionate Friends, and they meet about once a month, and it’s usually it’s for parents who’ve lost a child. So it doesn’t have to be a young child, it can be an adult child, and I found that very useful too.


What’s happens when you get to the meeting?


It’s held in one couples house, who lost a child. And they’re just absolutely wonderful and made you feel very welcome. And then you just all talk about, if you want to, you don’t have to say anything if you don’t want to, but when you feel ready to you just tell your story, and every body else does the same, and people say how they’ve managed to deal with it, and it’s helpful because some of the people have been going for years, like even ten years. So they’re ten years further on, so they know exactly how you felt but they know exactly how it can change, and how you do feel differently over the years.

 

When Ben died, Dave thought suicide was the 'worst thing'- now he thinks the death of a child is...

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When Ben died, Dave thought suicide was the 'worst thing'- now he thinks the death of a child is...

Age at interview: 56
Sex: Male
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Has anything helped you over the years?

We’ve had, fairly recently, in the last year or so, we’ve had some support from our Compassionate Friends group, that we go to once every six weeks or so. That’s a group of people who’ve lost children.

And they offer a befriending service. And really that’s what they’ve done for us, they’ve become our friends.

Would you like to say a little bit about that?

Yes, the SOBS meetings tended to be very heart rending. Very, for me, very difficult because you sit in a circle and people round the circle would say how their, the person who’d, they’d know had killed themselves. How they’d done it. And people were so raw and, descriptions of the deaths, was so emotional that I found it difficult to go to these group meetings.

Didn’t find it helpful. There are lots, when you’re bereaved, there’s lots of anger about and lots of the people at the meeting were angry.

Admittedly, when we went to the meeting, we were fairly newly bereaved so perhaps we weren’t coping at the time. It’s difficult to see yourself objectively in, in social settings. And a thing we struggle with now, I certainly struggle in, in social settings, to feel accepted in a social setting. And some of that is, is because of the suicide. That, I think the suicide causes more trouble than the, the death of the child in social circumstances because people, some people have trouble dealing with that, with the suicide thing, with the mental health thing.

Do you, can you say why you think people find it hard to talk to you about it?

Well, all I can say is, really, I know people find it hard to talk to me about it.

And I know people find it hard to, to listen when I’m talking about it, because they change the subject [laughs].

Do you like to talk about Ben? Would you like to be able to talk about him?

Yes. Not at any great length, but it would nice, at times, to just acknowledge that he existed.

Yes.

And it happened.

So that must be painful in social situations. And how is Compassionate Friends different [from SOBS]?

Well, they all know. They all know what it is to lose a child so, it’s, it’s easy to be silent in a room with people who know.

That you don’t have to explain.

But it’s difficult to explain…

So, do you still go to those meetings?

Yes. Yeah.

And what happens at a typical meeting? People just talk about what they want to talk about?

It starts, the meeting, the group we go to, I, I assume every group is different, but the group we go to, the people that run it have run it for twenty something years since their son died. And they know lots of the people; they’ve known lots of the people for a long time. But there are newly bereaved people there, and when we first went, you sit round and there’s perhaps, the meetings vary from ten to twenty people. You sit round in a circle, a sort of a circle, and you can go round the room and each person can say a few things about their bereavement if they want to. They don’t have to, but they can if they want to.

And that often happens. People usually say something. Some people get upset, and you can clearly see the diff., the length of time people have been bereaved by how they’re, how they’re functioning within the group, I think.

So I’ve found the groups very helpful, the people very friendly. No, no pressure, no questions. You’ve got, you’re at ease immediately because people have experienced similar things.
 
And when Ben first died we thought the, the suicide was the worst thing, but we now think that it’s the, the death of the child is the worst thing.
 
Yes.
 
And the suicide might be a bit of extra horribleness on top, but it’s, it doesn’t make it any worse than people who’ve just lost a child.
 
That’s the, the unexplainable thing, and it’s impossible to describe it to someone who hasn’t experienced it.
 

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.
 

Stephen attended a Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide group meeting. Most of the others had lost children. He found it depressing and could not imagine what they could be feeling. He felt he had nothing to say.

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Stephen attended a Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide group meeting. Most of the others had lost children. He found it depressing and could not imagine what they could be feeling. He felt he had nothing to say.

Age at interview: 45
Sex: Male
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I went to a bereavement group a couple of times, I didn’t really like it actually because it was mainly; people who had lost children, and ...


Was that a group specifically for people who had lost people through suicide?


That’s right, yes.


SOBS? Survivors of bereavement by suicide?


Yes, and I hate the name already, you know I just think you could at least come up with a name that just sounds a bit less depressing.


Mm.


I was depressed before I even got there, I felt like a naughty child when I was going there.


How did you find out about them?


I don’t know, somebody told me, I really don’t know, but …


So did you find a group fairly locally?


Well it was relatively local but still an hour’s drive away. But I remember sitting there in this group thinking, I’ve got nothing to say here. I have no idea what you must be going through, just by having, you know gone through what I’d been through which you know, is an extremely traumatic event, I still felt that you know I, I couldn’t, I hadn’t, I, yeah I felt I had nothing, you know I had no, I had no idea what they could possibly be going through having lost a child, and I still don’t you know, having my own children as well.

 

Paula went to a few Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide meetings, and used their aromatherapy services, but she found the meetings very depressing.

Paula went to a few Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide meetings, and used their aromatherapy services, but she found the meetings very depressing.

Age at interview: 45
Sex: Female
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We do have a local SOBS group which I’ve been to a few times, and particularly taken advantage of their aromatherapy services [laughs]. But I find SOBS, I found it quite difficult. I remember phoning them in the beginning in the very beginning, and speaking to them and then think I didn’t really want to go to that. The thought of going into a room full of people kind of made me think of some kind of Alcoholics Anonymous.

My main difficulty with SOBS I have to say was that… there were people there who’d lost children to suicide and for me just the one thing that could possibly be worse than losing your partner is to lose a child. And I just found it very, very depressing and I wasn’t really able, I mean… wasn’t really, I don’t know if I was able to offer support simply by being there but I didn’t feel that I was able to do much to help them and it wasn’t helping me really.

But other people, possibly people you’ve spoken to as well that I know have had very, very positive experiences from SOBS. So I wouldn’t put it down as just my; I mean I don’t know whether it’s a local thing or it’s just, just what is happening here at this time. And they were all, you know they were lovely people, and sad people, but I, it was almost worse do you know to go there and get that.

And raise anxieties?

Yeah. No, no, no I’m not worried about my children doing that. …But it was just a big room full of depression, of sadness you know. It may be that it was the wrong time of my, the wrong phase in the grieving process that I went. Maybe that I should have gone a bit earlier or. There were people then who go much later but everybody is different I suppose.

 

‘Compassionate Friends’ is a support group for those who have lost a child. Lucreta attended two...

‘Compassionate Friends’ is a support group for those who have lost a child. Lucreta attended two...

Age at interview: 57
Sex: Female
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You know so I didn’t go, and I went to another, not SOBS, another survivors thing, and I went there with my friend, my same friend who went into the morgue with me, and I won’t say her name again, and she, we went there to see what it was like. And these people ten years on, they had stood still.


Was this Compassionate Friends?


That’s it.


Aha.


That’s the one. They met in, they have places all over, and somebody at church gave me their, a sister at church gave me their thing, so we went there, and I remember, and they were like ten years on, these people were going, it’s like it became like a social gathering, you understand?

 

I think it’s for people who’ve lost a child, isn’t it?


Yes, but they haven’t moved on, and I’m thinking, “Hello, no way”, I was adamant, not to live in BACCA. BACCA is living in misery, and I’m not going to live there, so I just went once or twice, and that’s simply because I’m thinking ten years down the line, why are you still speaking this way? Why are you sounding this way, so if it’s one thing I had, was positivity and getting out of this, and do you know I set up this group, on my own group, Share, Share it, Share, Accept, Feel, Empathise together, for people who have this initial thing with bereavement. And I did it with my church, and so for a year or two people who had experienced bereavement, they would come to my house, and we’d do like a study and then we’d talk, and so I set out to help others and that went on for a while, until the, there was no use for the group anymore, because the initial stages of bereavement you know you have all this influx, but then afterwards, after a couple of weeks, you shut the front door, you’re on your own, and suicide, your front door really don’t need to be shut. You really need it. You don’t need patronisation because this is real, because death has got this one tree, and then you branch off, so you could empathise half way, and then you channel off.

 

So you felt with Compassionate Friends people were just living in the past all the time?


Yeah, misery.


They weren’t moving on?


They weren’t moving on and I had no,


You said living in BACCA. What’s that word?


BACCA is living in misery.


How do you spell that?


BACCA.


Is that a, a…?


A biblical terminology, yes. So you go, it’s like you know you go, you are out of it, you’re back in it, you’re out of it, you know, and I thought ten years down they should be, they, what they were saying should sound different.


So you didn’t want to go back?


No. I didn’t want to. I knew from earlier on, this will be hell, but I knew I had to get out, because I would die.


And you didn’t go to any SOB’s meetings at that time? Maybe…


No, I’ve never been to any SOB’s meetings.

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.
 

Linda attended a Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide conference in Birmingham. She said that it was wonderful and reassuring to...

Linda attended a Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide conference in Birmingham. She said that it was wonderful and reassuring to...

Age at interview: 39
Sex: Female
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Well one thing that I haven’t said is that I did actually go to a conference, the SOBS conference.


Oh yes.


In Birmingham and I found that really useful. That was really good. I’ve got a family that live in Birmingham anyway so that was, you know, I could go up and stop with them. And it seemed like the bigger areas like Birmingham itself had got a lot of help there, a lot of groups and things. But just to go and like meet other people, you know, having a sort of similar thing happen was really, really helpful for me. And there were people there that had been like, you know, coming back every few years and that had said, you know, each time it feels different and it’s always useful and helpful and that. And I’m going to, I think it was in April, I should try and go again.


Hmm.


To the next one. Because it was, it just like, just makes a lot of difference hearing people talk about their situations and that you’re not, you’re not the only one. You know sometimes I like used to think that I was going mad and why I’d have all these feelings and thoughts. And when I went there and, and other people were, you know, not even me asking them, they’d just say things and I’d think, “Oh God, I used to think like that as well.” Or …


Yeah.


… you know. When an ambulance goes past it, because I remember them coming to the house, and like this person said that, oh “Every time I hear that it, it, you know, makes me think back.” And I used to think, “Oh yeah, that’s me as well.”


Hmm.


And just like it seems comforting to know that there, there are people, you know, and it’s not just you that’s going mad.

 

The conferences run by Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide were interesting, and Nina found them helpful, but she found an entire day talking about suicide exhausting.

The conferences run by Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide were interesting, and Nina found them helpful, but she found an entire day talking about suicide exhausting.

Age at interview: 27
Sex: Female
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Have you ever been to any of the conferences that SOBS organise?

Yeah. Yeah.

What happens there?

The day is split into two parts, the first part of the day, up until lunch, is much like an academic conference on this really, you, you have two, three, people within kind of well suicide research maybe, tend to be academics, talking about what they’ve found out about suicide really. It’s interesting, it is, I mean people do find it interesting, then you will have survivor testimonies where people who’ve lost somebody to suicide will talk about their experience, tell you know their story. What actually happened? And then in the afternoon you get divided up into what they call a relationship group, and by that I mean you know your relationship to the person that died, so I would be in the sibling group and that sort of mirrors a, a SOBS you know normal meeting, where you go around and you tell people whatever you want to say really, tends to be the story of what happened, so it’s a day long of suicide, and you come back absolutely exhausted, absolutely drained. Its, beneficial to some, I’ve spoken to people who’ve been to one and have not really, personal choice really isn’t it, if you would find that…

Have you found them helpful?

Yes, yes, but you have to; they have to be kind of emotionally strong to be able to go to them I think.

Mm.

‘Cos they are intense, they are hard work and they are draining. So I won’t always go, it depends really.
 

Years after Ted lost his father by suicide he attended a Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide conference and a Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide retreat. A chance discussion helped him remember that he and his father had been very close.

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Years after Ted lost his father by suicide he attended a Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide conference and a Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide retreat. A chance discussion helped him remember that he and his father had been very close.

Age at interview: 56
Sex: Male
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Well, I think there’s groups, and I haven’t been to the groups. There’s groups all, all over the country in local areas which you can find on the SOB’s website, and really it’s very informal, you go along and you can go along once, or you can go along as many times as you like, and you can say a lot, or you can say a little, and it gives people an opportunity to exchange their experiences with people who’ve had similar experiences. And then they have, there’s a, there’s a conference in Birmingham every, every spring, where you have speakers, and workshops, where you can just discuss things, and they have things, people like coroners come to speak and they’re mainly you know, the real conversations go on in the coffee breaks often. And I remember once I went to a place in Bolton and there were these two women there and they’d just lost a, each of them had lost a partner, within the previous twelve months, and they were obviously very very upset and I was sat having coffee with them, I wasn’t really speaking but they, they’d just found each other really, and they were just talking to each other, and I think that was, it’s that kind of thing you can meet people and they’ve had a similar experience and you can share that experience, and you don’t have to, the thing about SOB’s is you don’t have to progress, you know, I mean there is an idea of progression but you know I think the idea of progression you know in a in a therapeutic way, you know it’s more of a sort of, more of a target of the counsellor rather than anything else ‘cos the counsellor has to prove that they’re, you know, they’re curing this person. So I don’t like the idea of progression and SOB’s doesn’t have that idea you know, you just, you just be there get involved.


Mm.


And then they have a retreat, there’s a, the, you know you can go on a retreat, and I went on the retreat, because I was involved really, I was on the trustees of SOB’s at one time, and I went you know because I thought I should go and experience this retreat, I didn’t really go with any anticipation of benefiting from it personally, it’s my sort of character to do business at arms length with this, with this, with this issue, so typically I was on the trustees you know, but I went to this retreat and I just found it wonderful. And what I found wonderful about it was the fact that you know there were all of these people in the bar afterwards talking and I was talking. You know, everyone was telling their story, like they do, and there was this guy there and he’d lost his son, and he said that he was glad he was quite old when he lost his son ‘cos there was less time to live without him, and I talked to him a bit about what had happened to me, in just, not expecting anything, and he said, “You were very close to your father weren’t you?” And it was something I’d never really admitted to myself until that point when I was in the bar having had a few drinks, and I said, “Yes I was.” And some part of me remembered that, yes I was close to my father. And I’d somehow forgotten that for over 40 years. So even if you’re very very cynical and not expecting anything out of you know meeting people, and I didn’t, and I was thinking, yes he’s right, I was close to him.

 

During a SOBS retreat weekend people support each other. Marion describes what usually happens....

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During a SOBS retreat weekend people support each other. Marion describes what usually happens....

Age at interview: 58
Sex: Female
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What happens at the retreat?


We always have nice food. We have a lovely hotel which the coordinator susses out before anybody goes. We’ve already done it for next year’s. And we have excellent food, excellent service, just a time to get together. It is fairly, it is very informal. The first full day, it’s usually held in a town where there’s a street market or there’s local activities' steam railways, attractions, that sort of thing and there’s always shopping. And then in the afternoons the local college, health and beauty students always put on some sort of a massage and facials and that sort of thing. Because a lot of us find that, that you don’t actually take a lot of time for yourself. It’s very hard to feel that you’re worth taking time for.


I suppose some people are very busy earning money?


Absolutely yes, yeah. And then there’s always a candlelit dinner, always a candlelit dinner on the Saturday, which again could be a very emotional time but actually is usually a scream. Everybody brings a candle and then it’s, the staff from the hotel put them randomly on the tables so you hopefully don’t get your own candle and then the candles are lit and they’re just a symbol of why we’re there. Sundays some people go home, sometimes people stay the next, that night. It’s just a sort of social day really.


And the cost is just the cost of the hotel?


Yes, yeah, yeah. Yes so it’s quite good but it’s, I think it’s very important. We, we always, sadly always have new members. Always.


Can people come from all over the country?


Oh yes, yes. Once or twice we’ve had a contingent from way up North and South East, West, everywhere yeah, yeah.

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.
 

Running a support group has helped Ann to accept her own bereavement. She still finds it a...

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Running a support group has helped Ann to accept her own bereavement. She still finds it a...

Age at interview: 60
Sex: Female
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Yes so I felt that a self-help group would be something that would be really valuable, because it was something that I had looked for. And to cut a long story short, eventually in February 2005 … no just wait a minute … February 2006, I begun a self-help group. And two or three friends supported me at the start to get it going. At the first two meetings only one person turned up. But we persisted, because we knew that it was a question of letting people know that we even existed.

And now we’re eighteen months on and we generally have eighteen to twenty people come long. And that is actually increasing the more we’re getting out in our local community and making people aware of the self-help group, more people are coming along. So we …over the summer we don’t meet because we think that encourages people to support each other rather than depending on the group. So if they’ve made friends in the group they can meet up. And then we will resume in September. And we’ve had quite a lot of inquires over the last three months of people wanting to know more about it and you know encouraged to come along. So we are anticipating that that will extend a bit further.

But I found it very rewarding because there’s always that element from I think any bereavement, but suicide bereavement has got a particular element of the trauma, and the particular things of, you know, you’re involved with the police, you’re involved with the coroner’s court, you’re involved with the press. And most of us who are bereaved through suicide haven’t been involved in that type of scenario. So therefore you … those experiences stay with you I think more strongly. And there are times when even though you’ve come to terms with what’s happened, you still find it helpful to talk through things. And what I find from running the group is that it does give me that chance to maybe revisit some things or even look at situations differently. I would say you know that I’ve dealt with my bereavement, and that I’m comfortable with it. But I don’t think the pain ever goes away and that surfaces as, as any painful experience does for anybody.

Hmm.

So therefore running the group, it’s helpful to be able to share my experience. But it’s also … it’s still a comfort being with other people.

Yes.

Who have gone through the same thing.

Does your group have any particular name?

It does yeah … it’s linked with the Survivors of Bereavement through Suicide, which is a national charity.

So would you see yourself as part of that?

Yes we are part of that. We’re linked with them.

Hmhm.

But we you know run our own group. The national group does give support to anyone who would want to set up a group. So if there’s anybody, you know, that wants to start a group, they can get in contact with the national SOBS and they will guide and support them into doing that.

Do you mind explaining what, what might happen at a typical meeting, at a typical group meeting?

I can’t speak for any other meeting because I haven’t been to anyone else’s meeting.

No, your own, your own.

But our own meeting, we come together and generally we, we always start off just explaining that what is being discussed in the group is confidential and that we respect that and that we don’t discuss it out … whatever’s mentioned in the group we don’t discuss it outside. We emphasise that we’ve come together for what we share in common and that we don’t tolerate discrimination of any sort. So therefore we really try to aim, focus on what we agree on and what we; you know our common experience of being bereaved through suicide. And that we respect that each person will maybe respond differently. And we have found people really do respect each other. We’ve got people who come who, you know, have got deep Christian belief or belief through some other religious way, and others who have no belief at all. And you sense that people do respect that between each other.
 
Hmm.
 
And you see both … the … the questions that people ask from both those perspectives, and also you’ve got different age groups. We’ve got people from their early twenties up until people into their eighties. And again we’re just united by the fact that we’ve gone through the same thing.
 
Hmm.
 
So it’s very wide, you know, what we discuss, and the people who are attending.
 
And do you leave the floor fairly open for people to talk about what they feel like talking about or would you lead the discussion in some way?
 
We always start off with leading the discussion in order to provide a platform from which to begin. But we always have a session of, you know, is there anything that’s really bugging you, you’ve come to this meeting tonight and we haven’t covered something that you really want to discuss.
 
Hmm.
 
And then we hope that that will avoid people going away and thinking well I went tonight and didn’t get a chance to say what I wanted to say. We also at the end of meeting we have a drink and nibbles and things to eat so that people intermingle and may of not been confident to speak out in the group but they will have … somebody in the group will have mentioned something that’s dear to their heart and they will, they will then go and speak to them.
Hmm.
 
And that happens a lot.
 
Hmm.
 
And we also have books for people to borrow. And we try to keep up with whatever’s happening in the world of surviving … you know supporting survivors of bereavement through suicide.
 
Hmm.
 
So it’s quite on open forum really where people can move on. And we do emphasise that it is about moving on. And it … the encouraging thing is that we find people come when they feel they need to.

 

Mike helped to start a support group. He explains how he got involved and what happens during a...

Mike helped to start a support group. He explains how he got involved and what happens during a...

Age at interview: 53
Sex: Male
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Well eighteen years later I was working as a Social Worker, Psychiatric Social Worker in Leeds, psychiatric hospital, and I noticed a sign on the notice board talking about the need to have a group set up for people bereaved through suicide. And I thought ‘what a great idea, this is really what’s needed’ and I wished there’d been something like this around for my sister and myself back in nineteen seventy-two. So I decided to make contact with the people who were setting it up and I’ve been actively involved with it ever since, and I’ve been a facilitator and Vice Chair of the group, and it made me realise the impact of suicide on other people as well, not just my own suicide but how it affects them, and the fact that if you’ve been bereaved through suicide you are more at risk of developing mental health problems and have an increased risk of suicide yourself.

What do you do at the meetings can you explain please?

Well what we, what we do basically is to, provide emotional support to people essentially, we help them to tell their story, they know they’re talking to people who themselves have been bereaved through suicide, that’s a crucial thing because we’ve had people come to the group before who’ve been to other bereavement groups and okay they’ve found people sympathetic and helpful but, it’s been really important to them to know they’re talking to somebody else who themselves has been through this, to really understand what it’s like, and that’s one of the first questions that people tend to ask you, you know, “Have you been bereaved through suicide?”. And of course we can say yes. So they, the help that we provide is in the sharing, we can’t change the facts, we can’t bring people back to life, but what we can do we share with them in this, and help them to understand that the thoughts and emotions and feelings they’re going through are the same kind of thoughts, feelings, emotions that most people go through, or everybody goes through, we’re all different as individuals, as people so we grieve differently, but there’s a lot of common ground obviously.

 

And I think it’s knowing that you’re not alone with these feelings and emotions that other people have gone through this as well and understand you, that’s the therapy of it really, that’s the support that we provide really, yeah.
 

Patricia helped to arrange a service of thanksgiving for all the things people had shared with...

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Patricia helped to arrange a service of thanksgiving for all the things people had shared with...

Age at interview: 58
Sex: Female
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We had a first in SOBS this year. We put together a Thanksgiving service at Tewkesbury Abbey, which was in April.
 
Oh, that’s nice.
 
It was a national event. It wasn’t just for local people bereaved by suicide. People came for literally all over the country and this chap flew over from Ireland.
 
That’s a really nice idea.
 
Well, it was a Thanksgiving, twofold. Thanksgiving for all the things we’d shared with the person we lost and it was a Thanksgiving for the support that we offer to each other. It was the most wonderful spiritual occasion. Of course it was a Christian service, it was a Christian church but I don’t mean it was an overtly Christian; it was the spirit of the people in there, a lot of emotion. But I was quite clear from the outset this was not a memorial service, this was upbeat, happy, and strong event.
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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