Sur­viv­ing sui­cide —there’s help

Stratford Press - - News - By JAMIE ALLEN

On Mon­day Septem­ber 10, com­mu­ni­ties and in­di­vid­u­als around the globe con­nected up on a com­mon cause — World Sui­cide Preven­tion Day.

The day fea­tured can­dles, wa­iata, karakia, ex­er­cy­cles, yel­low rib­bons, walks for hope, good con­ver­sa­tion, re­mem­ber­ing, shar­ing, cry­ing and laugh­ing to­gether . . . and plenty more.

“What’s the point of that?” a re­cently be­reaved par­ent asked me. I saw where he was com­ing from. Noth­ing the day could achieve will bring back his boy.

An­niver­saries of oc­ca­sions (par­tic­u­larly when it comes to loss) are dif­fi­cult things. In many ways, it makes no dif­fer­ence whether today is the 7th, the 15th or the 17th — they are all just num­bers. In re­al­ity, grief doesn’t go into hid­ing un­til a par­tic­u­lar day — we re­mem­ber our loved ones ev­ery day. We all know that a spe­cific day and a month ap­proach­ing in the cal­en­dar can bring to the sur­face a wealth of emo­tion, in an­tic­i­pa­tion al­most as much as the day it­self. It’s not just the date, we’re also sub­con­sciously aware of changes of sea­son which match the be­reave­ment, the back­drop to the story and the ar­rival of events that hap­pen an­nu­ally close to the date.

World Sui­cide Preven­tion Day is a kind of col­lec­tive an­niver­sary for the planet, but it’s as much about look­ing for­wards as it is about re­mem­ber­ing.

Grief is its own unique jour­ney, in which there is a time for speak­ing and a time for si­lence, a time for tears and a time for laugh­ter, a time for ask­ing ques­tions and a time to be deeply, deeply sad.

There may be a time for anger — there’s also a time for hope. Our jour­ney through grief doesn’t fol­low a lin­ear pro­gres­sion like an el­e­va­tor mak­ing steady progress up a build­ing, floor by floor — the ex­pe­ri­ence is much more like the lift be­ing ran­domly sum­moned up and down from this floor to the other, like when a kid has amused him­self by call­ing the lift on one floor and then rush­ing up the stairs to call it to an­other, then an­other. Ever had that ex­pe­ri­ence of mis­tak­enly get­ting off on the wrong floor? Pretty frus­trat­ing if you end up stranded there, wait­ing for the lift to reap­pear.

In my ex­pe­ri­ence (and that’s all I can speak of), there’s floors on the grief jour­ney which are gen­er­ally un­help­ful to stop at (like men’s fash­ion when you’re look­ing for kitchen­ware). On some floors, you just want to ham­mer the door-close but­ton as soon as they glide open. For ex­am­ple, the stop where peo­ple are kindly, and well-mean­ingly of­fer­ing use­less plat­i­tudes such as “ev­ery­thing hap­pens for a rea­son”, or “I know just how you’ll feel­ing” (no, you don’t). There’s a floor you find yourself where there’s lots of fran­tic ac­tion — peo­ple ar­riv­ing, flow­ers dropped off and you’re numbly pick­ing pow­erpoint pho­tos for the ser­vice while still in shock, and then, just as sud­denly, the crowd dis­perses and it all goes ter­ri­bly quiet.

When our loved one dies, we need time and space to take in what’s hap­pened. We could ben­e­fit from slow­ing stuff down. There are floors where peo­ple are crowd­ing you with so­lu­tions and ad­vice. “You need to be strong for the chil­dren . . . ” (No! We have feel­ings for a rea­son, there’s noth­ing wrong with our chil­dren see­ing we are hurt­ing

. . . ), or “it’s time to move on / I was think­ing you’d be over it by now.” The most in­sen­si­tive and hurt­ful grenade you can chuck at a be­reaved some­one.

In con­ver­sa­tion about loss, and par­tic­u­larly sui­cide, it’s a rel­a­tively re­cent cul­tural dis­cov­ery that an awk­ward si­lence in the lift isn’t work­ing. We need to talk about it, and that HAS to be good progress. But we’re also learn­ing that it’s not only im­por­tant THAT we talk about sui­cide, but HOW we talk about it.

Mis­in­for­ma­tion and bad ad­vice can do way more harm than good. Not sure what to say? Ex­press your feel­ings through an act of com­pas­sion — a hug, a few bags of gro­ceries, a walk to­gether. Not just the week af­ter, but how about two months or two years af­ter­wards?

There’s a some­times hard-tofind floor called “hope”. We’ve seen a lot of con­struc­tion on that floor lately. There’s a sec­tion where we’re wel­comed to re­mem­ber and cher­ish our loved ones and to talk about them (and to them), freely.

There are wa­ter­ing holes where, if you or a loved ones are strug­gling with sui­ci­dal thoughts, there are non-judgey peo­ple who will un­der­stand and sup­port you through this.

There are coun­sel­lors you can text or call, any time day or night on 1737. There’s amaz­ing ser­vices like Tu¯ taki Youth Inc, Thrive, Sup­port­ing Fam­i­lies, Path­ways, The Ru­ral Sup­port Trust, The Women's Cen­tre, The Strat­ford Men­tal Well­ness Peer Sup­port Group, and Progress to Health who will help you find your bear­ings, a space avail­able to be booked at Taranaki Re­treat.

I guess that’s the point. Find­ing our way, to­gether, to a floor called Hope, and, to­gether, bring­ing about the change we can’t wait to see.

■ Jamie Allen started up the Taranaki Re­treat with his wife Suzy and of­fi­cially opened it as a char­i­ta­ble trust last year. Last month the cou­ple were awarded a New Ply­mouth Dis­trict Coun­cil’s Cit­i­zens’ Award. For more in­for­ma­tion about the re­treat go to www.taranakire­treat.org.nz

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