By Fergus Allen
Much of the work the Crisis Centre of BC does is preventative in nature – the phone lines and chats, our training and courses – all work in service of helping people through challenging times and preventing as many suicides as we can.
Unfortunately, despite preventative efforts, suicides occur. Every day in Canada, an average of 10 people die by suicide. It’s important that resources be made readily available to those left behind, mourning in the wake of a loved one’s suicide.
But just what is suicide bereavement, exactly? And how does it differ from so-called “regular” grief?
“It’s not like an expected death,” says Jude Platzer. She has been on the board of the Crisis Centre for a few years now. “The grief has many components to it – people suffer guilt, it is prolonged, it is much more up and down.” Jude’s son, Josh, died by suicide in 1999. Following his death, she set up a charity in his name, the Josh Platzer Society for teen suicide prevention and awareness, held at Vancouver Foundation.
“It is a very particular grieving process,” echoes Jessica Wolf-Ortiz, a family therapist and counsellor who has been working with the Centre, growing a programme specifically tailored to suicide bereavement. Due to the circumstances of the death, suicide is considered a traumatic loss. “People working around bereavement need to have an understanding of trauma. They need to have a systemic view.”
A major barrier to entry in these discussions is the reluctance to have them in the first place. “There’s so little information out there. What do you say to someone who has lost someone to suicide? People are gonna try to avoid the topic,” says Jessica. Jude agrees: “One of the big things is the isolation people feel because their friends don’t wanna talk about it. Out of stigma, out of fear.”
Jude’s main goal with the Josh Platzer Society was to reduce this stigma and encourage open conversation about suicide. “It’s important to speak candidly. Use the words. Say: Are you thinking of killing yourself? Do you have a plan?”
As with many, the past year and a half has been especially difficult on the recently bereaved. “People haven’t been able to hug one another, or have proper funerals,” Says Jude, “Those rituals are really important in any kind of bereavement.” While things are slowly getting back to normal (whatever that means), and these conversations are becoming more commonplace, there is still a long way to go.
In the interest of promoting open discussion about suicide and it’s prevention, as well as recovery in the wake of the suicide of a loved one, the Crisis Centre recently partnered with the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention for an event on November 20th, 2021. It was hosted via zoom and made available to anyone who has experienced a loss by suicide. For a brief overview of the event, check here.
Our next suicide loss support group will be hosted in January.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call:
- Vancouver Coastal Regional Distress Line: 604-872-3311
- Anywhere in BC 1-800-SUICIDE: 1-800-784-2433
- Mental Health Support Line: 310-6789
- Online Chat Service for Youth: www.YouthInBC.com (Noon to 1am)
- Online Chat Service for Adults: www.CrisisCentreChat.ca (Noon to 1am)