Working with grief and managing difficult situations

Grief and suicide bereavement are key topics of discussion in a suicide loss support group
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Sharing between peers helps to build wider understanding of grief processes and teaches people they are not alone in their experience.

For more in-depth information on the topics below, please see pages 32–40 in the handbook.

Talking about grief

  • Invite group members to tell their stories when they are ready.
  • Gently ease people into the understanding that there are ebbs and flows to the grief and that this may change over time.
  • Support group discussions on grief by explaining that there are recognised steps outlined in a lot of literature but there is no right or wrong way of grieving. Everybody’s personal experience is valid.

Listening to stories of loss

Listening to stories of grief and pain is an essential aspect of facilitating. For group facilitators who have their own experience of suicide loss, this can be especially difficult. Looking after yourself and practicing active self-care is important, please see the Sustainability and self-care page for ideas and advice. You may also like to consider seeking supervision. For more information see pages 41–44 of the handbook.

Managing difficult or sensitive situations

As a facilitator, it is useful to work out ahead of time how you may respond in difficult situations, for example when a group member is very upset or there is conflict in the group. Discuss this with your co-facilitator(s).

Most importantly, if a difficult situation does arise, talk about it when you debrief after the meeting by sharing your perceptions. See it as a learning curve, an opportunity to reflect and build your skills. If a group member is very upset or expresses suicidal thoughts, it's important to know where to go for additional support and who to refer group members to if you feel they need further support.

Managing suicide risk

As part of the experience of losing a loved one to suicide, it is not uncommon for people who are suicide bereaved to experience their own thoughts of suicide.

People who are suicide bereaved are also more vulnerable to stress, and may be dealing with complicated grief and its attendant issues, such as post-traumatic stress syndrome, sleep problems and guilt. These can all contribute to a person being more vulnerable to suicidal thoughts and behaviours.

If a group member discloses their own suicidal feelings, know who you can refer them to for further support. Visit Suicide: coping with suicidal thoughts for more information and resources about how to support someone having suicidal thoughts.

Seeking counselling support

To get effective counselling support for suicide loss, it is best to find a counsellor or psychologist who has specific skills or a specific interest in this area. Questions you can ask include:

  • What experience do they have in suicide bereavement?
  • Do they have lived experience? This is not necessarily essential, but it is useful for you to know.
  • Are they comfortable working in this subject area?
  • Have they had professional development or undertaken skills training in the area of grief and bereavement or suicide loss?
  • Go here for more information on how to find a GP or counsellor.

For more information, see page 58–59 in the handbook.