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Lessons From Grief & Suicide

At the beginning of November, we lost my 18 year old brother  Max, who took his own life, after suffering depression for a number of years.  We are devastated and each day is difficult, particularly for my parents. However,  during grief you learn many things about yourself, your family and your  friends.

I remember reading many years ago a lovely blog post (which  I now cannot locate!) which shared the author’s thoughts on grief and what she  found helped her. I have often thought about this blog and therefore, I have  been inspired to share with you just a few of the lessons I have learnt since  Max died, in case it resonates with someone.

I am sure everyone’s experiences are different, but this is  my experience and what I found helped me to cope.

Talking Helps

Often in times of grief, it may seem that the right thing to do is to avoid talking about the difficult stuff, or maybe the normal stuff, or  what you are going to do tomorrow, or what you should wear to the funeral, for fear of being inappropriate. What I  found was that being able to talk about the specific situation, or talking  about what you did at work yesterday, or choosing not to talk at all, was the  best thing that we could do. In other words, when we didn’t feel we had to  censor everything that came out of our mouth, for fear of saying the wrong  thing, or trying to say the right thing at the right time, that everyone was  more relaxed and felt supported by each other. Life will go on, although  sometimes that idea seems impossible. So it is ok to act normal. It is ok to  act irrationally. This is grief. There aren’t any rules.

Laughing Is Ok

I am well known for having a very loud laugh. It may not be  a great laugh, and what I’m laughing at may not be all that funny, but my laugh  is loud and people know when something tickles my fancy. It is a natural part of  me and trying to ignore it or block it didn’t work for me. When I decided that  it was ok to laugh, I noticed that other people would laugh too, or at least  smile. I think they felt more comfortable, more relaxed. When they didn’t act shocked or chide me for laughing, I know it made me feel more comfortable and  relaxed. Maybe they felt a little better too.

Food Helps!

This may sound slightly less ‘deep’ than my other points,  but until we were in the midst of the turmoil I didn’t realise how appreciated  food parcels were. With nothing in the cupboards, no one wants to go to the  shops, let alone try and cook for the family, plus all the extra visitors, when  people arrived unexpectedly with boxes of groceries, take away pizzas or a  frozen lasagne it was the best thing they could have done. It was also great for people searching for some way to help us when there was nothing else they could do. I know now that food will be at  the top of my “what can I do?” list the next time someone I know is going  through a difficult time.

A Phone Call Is  Welcome

A lot of people ask themselves “what can I do?”, “how can I  help?” and feel that nothing they say or do can possibly help. Often they feel that you are in such deep grief that a phone call from them is the last thing you want. Yes, there were times when I didn’t want to speak to anyone, but that  is where the novel concept of ‘not answering the phone’ comes in to play.  However, often I was happy to talk and could talk openly. We also found that it  helped those that weren’t with us to understand that although we were devastated, we were coping, we were ok, and we were happy to talk about what had happened.

Suicide

One of the most consistent comments I have had from people  is that they appreciated how open our family was with Max’s suicide. Suicide is  an extremely difficult topic to talk about, and is one that makes the majority  of us feel uncomfortable, because it is so tragic. Somehow (I’m not sure how),  our family right from the start, unconsciously decided that we would be open  about Max’s death, that we wouldn’t shy away from the fact that he had depression and he had taken his own life. We aren’t ashamed of the way Max  died. We believe that Max had an illness, as one of my friends later termed it,  a terminal illness. Talking openly helped us as a family to deal with our grief.  What we didn’t necessarily realise was how much it helped all of those who knew Max, knew u,s and wanted to come to terms with their loss. If there is even one person out there who decides not to commit suicide because we talked about  Max’s death, then this shows how important it is to be open and honest.

I’m sure there is going to be much more for us to learn, much more  to go through, and many times when we don’t know what to do. At least I know that sharing your thoughts and feelings, when you feel comfortable to do so, is a big part of dealing with your grief, and maybe some of you out there have experienced some of the same things I did.

Are you suffering  from depression, or do you know someone who is? Have you been impacted by suicide? Here are some support tools you may find useful.

beyondblue – the  national depression initiative – http://www.beyondblue.org.au

Headspace –  National Youth Mental Health Foundation – http://www.headspace.org.au/

Silent Ripples –  a support group in the Murray Bridge South Australia, for those bereaved by  suicide – http://www.silentripples.webs.com/

Lifeline – Crisis  Support, Suicide Prevention, Mental Health support – http://www.lifeline.org.au/ 

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  • Jonandjennystark

    Yes our lives will never be the same again. Such a beautiful person.
    I agree with Abbie, there have been many positives to come out of it. eg. the strength of his family & friends.
    Despite his depression Max had a great life and he knew we all loved him.
    And we will continue to love him and make the most of all of our family.

  • Bronpahl

    wow Abbie, my daughter Sophie was friends with Max and helped him through some hard times and vice versa. I also suffer very bad depression and although I will never fully understand how you feel, I can totally understand how Max felt…he was a beautiful boy and I hope he is in the greenest of fields and with others that left his life prematurely…what a brave and hones t person you are and I feel a little stronger reading your blog…thanks for sharing…much love Bronnie xxx

  • KAAOS4

    Thank you for letting us know what helps all those who are grieving, no matter the circumstances. I have experienced being with a family and having a friend who took their own life, noone can fully understand their struggles. I’m glad you have chosen to be so outspoken, your strength has given us the awareness and compassion, not only for families who have lost someone through suicide, but also for anyone who has a friend or relative who has passed away. I admire your strength & resilience. Thank you for being. Kellie x

  • Yes Jenny, it is amazing how strong our family has been and we are lucky for all the support we have.

  • Thank you Kellie. Yes, often it is so hard to know what to do to help people during times of grief, or challenges in their life. I know I appreciated reading other people’s stories, and hopefully mine can be of some use. I am so glad it has helped you.

  • Thanks Bronnie, and thank you Sophie. For us it is very hard to understand what Max was going through, so it is great to know there were others around him who could understand and support him. I am glad my writing was of some help to you.

  • Becky Prosser (Collins)

    Beautiful and brave Abbie! Mature and wise beyound your years! An inspiration to us all who live or care for those suffering depression xx

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  • Thanks Bec! Lovely to hear from you and I appreciate your comments.

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