By Scott Mason
My name is Scott, and I am a communications volunteer at the Centre. In March and April, I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to make a video for the Crisis Centre. The topic was suicide bereavement.
To be honest, I don’t work in the health field or in social services, so I was coming at the topic as a novice. Over the process of making the video, though, I learned some valuable lessons about the power of opening up, sharing stories, and building community.
Over the course of recording the interviews, I spoke to Luis Daniel, Jude, and Hamish. Each of these individuals has lost someone to suicide.
I was struck by how open they were while speaking about their trauma. As I heard their stories, I realized this was because of the work they had been doing all along. They had learned that opening up about their experience was a path toward healing.
The first interview I did was with Luis Daniel. He lost his brother to suicide. He generously agreed to tell his story on camera and shared how after his brother’s death, he and his family were left wondering “why?” and what to do next. “This whole thing lasted for a couple of months. We were all having a very hard time; dealing with guilt, anger, sadness, uncertainty, and just the typical questions of why”.
Jessica Wolf, the Bereavement Coordinator at the Crisis Centre of BC, says the questions asked after a suicide can become; “an obsessive search” – suicide is not like other losses, where a death can be understood or expected.
“It was challenging at first,” says Luis, “but it was reassuring to see that everyone was going through something similar”. He went on to tell us that he isn’t typically very open with his feelings but when he opened up in the group, he felt better immediately.
Jessica describes the groups as being designed “to keep people feeling safe and connected, that connection is what people want when they’re feeling isolated”. This is what really resonated with me – the power of sharing with people and even more than that, the power of connecting with people and being present with one another while sharing experiences of trauma.
Hamish, who lost his son to suicide, explains how that when he goes to a group, he doesn’t necessarily go to tell his story, but to hear other people’s stories. “If I feel I’m in a place to talk, I can share my story and not feel alone…feeling alone is tough. Having a peer group is really important, having someone to call, having something to go to”. For Hamish, it’s not just about sharing his experience but also about being part of a wider community where he can go to feel safe and comfortable enough to share his story.
Judith Platzer, a bereavement group support person, details how people generally have a difficult time talking about their loss at first, then slowly open up. “The wonderful thing is that when you are able to get those emotions out, there’s a huge relief. In the groups, you can feel that…you can feel the relief of people”.
When I started my volunteer work with the Crisis Centre, I hadn’t had much exposure to suicide or its effects in my life. I went into this experience expecting to make a video that would function like an information source – it would be a tool to help people learn about and find a resource if they needed it. I believe the video accomplishes that, which is good, but it also taught me more than that. It taught me that healing from a terrible loss like suicide is possible, it takes a lot of courage. What was truly inspiring, though, was hearing stories of how strangers were able to work through their trauma by bonding over their experiences with others in the community.
What is Suicide Bereavement Video
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)