TEN TIPS: HOW TO TALK TO THE BEREAVED

I’ve been dealing for years with this issue of people not knowing how to talk to me once they find out I’m a bereaved mom. Given it’s been over fifteen years now, it’s getting a bit monotonous. And I know I’m not alone in feeling this way. There are plenty of other bereaved parents who struggle with the same reactions I get once people find out I’ve lost a child. In fact, I’m certain many bereaved people routinely experience the discomfort of those with whom they have shared their loss, no matter who has died. People in general, just don’t know how to talk to the bereaved.

While it’s rare for me to talk about my daughter with just anyone, it isn’t because I don’t want to. It’s because I learned early in my bereavement that I had to take extreme care in choosing who to share my loss with simply because of the overwhelmingly reactions I got when people found out I’d lost a child. (Usually this was in response to them asking me how many children I had). All of them wanted to know how she had died, which only made their discomfort even worse because it was a suicide.

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THE POWER OF RELIEF

When I first became bereaved in 2005, after the suicide of my daughter, I felt powerless, confused and distrustful of everything. My entire world had fallen apart. I had no idea how I would ever live without my child and was terrified something else really bad would happen to my family. I couldn’t imagine what I would be able to ever do again that would feel worthwhile. I felt isolated because of how different I now felt from everyone else and in pain so extreme, I didn’t think I would survive it.

But I did survive. And more importantly, I’m starting to truly live again after experiencing genuine healing through a process I can’t wait to share with others.

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Are You Stuck in the Past and Want More for Your Life?

Any life event that has uprooted you in some way may be keeping you stuck in pain. This could be from a childhood trauma or as an adult, the loss of a loved one, relationship, job, money, health, lifestyle or friends. Pain is pain, no matter where it comes from. It can feel just as devastating for everyone, dependent on what we are here to experience.

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The Dark Web: Why are we too afraid to talk to our kids about suicide?

A few days ago, I came across this article that shockingly (for me, anyway) told the story of a young Norwegian woman who tracks Instagram’s dark web for anyone at risk of attempting suicide. This young watcher (she is only twenty-two) scrolls through her Instagram feed looking for signs of imminent suicide attempts on the more than 450 accounts she’s been given permission to follow. She intervenes when she believes it necessary to do so based on the type of content posted. Despite not being formally trained in mental healthcare, she alerts the police and ambulance services requesting them (sometimes pleading with them) to further investigate those individuals she identifies as critically at risk of suicide. Some of these professionals don’t always take her claims seriously. Sometimes lives are lost.

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Recognizing PTSD – Could Power Pave the Way?

Here’s an interesting news story. After “mysteriously vanishing from the spotlight” two years ago, RCMP Staff Sgt. Jennifer Pound, a twenty-two-year veteran of the RCMP and for six years, the “public face” of the integrated homicide investigation team (IHIT) in Metro Vancouver, is emerging as the RCMP’s new face of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Here’s my take on the story. Is she really? Or, is Pound the chosen one to finally get the media’s attention (and stay there) to highlight just how broken the system is when it comes to the RCMP providing support and resources to its mentally injured members? Here’s part of her story.

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Surviving Suicide – Finding Life Again

I’ve just returned from a month-long mini round-the-world trip that took me and my husband to Asia, Indonesia and Europe. Now, while most people who love to travel would probably have been excited planning, counting down the days to departure and actually travelling, I found myself, as always, in a state of neutrality more than I did excitement. More than neutrality, it is the state that anyone who lives with PTSD struggles with, not having the ability to feel excited about much of anything (which as an aside, is different from being able to feel gratitude). As such, I honestly could not rouse myself to feel anything more than hopeful that all would go well on each leg of the trip (which it did) and as much excitement as I could feel reuniting with our son in various locations for some quality time together. If anyone can drum up excitement in me, it’s my son!

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Surviving versus Living – What’s the difference?

It is interesting that we are commonly known to survive loss. We are thought of in our grief as surviving loved ones. We are called suicide survivors after losing a loved one to suicide. But what it means to truly survive loss is not well understood or even talked about at all. It’s just a word that’s been assigned to the bereaved.

The literal meaning of the word “survive” is to remain alive after the death of someone or the cessation of something under adverse or unusual circumstances. And remaining alive versus living are two very different things. I’m sure everyone would agree that losing a child is the least favourable circumstance to be in and is unusual and adverse in every way imaginable. For most if not all bereaved parents, surviving their child’s death is about the only thing they can do. But it’s also true that many grievers in general simply remain alive without much or any feeling at all after losing a love of their life. Without hope and loss of direction, some people may never feel anything again.

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PTSD: How it Impacts Relationships and What You Need to Manage Them

As a bereaved mom of a daughter who died by suicide in 2005, I have long been a proponent of change in how we view difficult loss and grief in our culture and the importance of understanding trauma and PTSD associated with certain types of loss. Not only for grievers, but everybody supporting them through their grief process.

It’s not only child loss that can traumatize people, but keeping it to bereaved parents for a moment, I am certain there isn’t one mom or dad out there who hasn’t been traumatized by the loss of their child, no matter the cause of death. They may even have PTSD and not know it. Little to no information is available on the topic. Despite the lack of information on the risk of PTSD for bereaved parents, it is encouraging to see that a quick internet search pops up a number of articles and studies done on PTSD in parents coping with a critically ill child, which is progress. (As an aside, there is even research for traffic accident victims who have PTSD). I remain astounded at the apparent lack of information and interest to take up this cause for the grieving.

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Suicide – Are we failing each other as a society?

Suicide is a topic that while gaining more and more recognition in terms of the global concern over increasing numbers of people both young and old dying, the reasons for people choosing to die remains baffling. It is estimated that 800,000 to over one million people die by suicide somewhere in the world each year (depending on which stats you read). One person dies by suicide every 40 seconds. The global suicide rate is 16 per 100,000 population. There has been an increase of 60% of suicide deaths in the past 45 years.

Focusing for a moment only on children and youth, suicide is the second biggest killer of young people worldwide. It is the same for Canada, the USA and is one of the leading causes of death in the UK for people 10 to 34 years old, with the numbers rising. Overall, suicide rates are the highest in Europe, followed by South East Asia, the Western Pacific (includes Australia and New Zealand) and the Americas. Probably, though this could be a stretch – I’m going to assume that most people don’t think about suicide unless they’ve been touched by it.

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The Parent Project – Is it Right to Produce a Grandchild from a Deceased Child?

I came across this article in a Canadian newspaper recently where a New York supreme court judge gave permission for the parents of a deceased son without his prior consent to use his sperm to produce a male heir. Cultural differences aside (they are from a culture where male heirs are important), they stated they were desperate for a part of their son to live on, which is universal to all grieving parents.

As a bereaved parent myself, the story left me wondering whether this case could set a precedent giving every parent the right to produce a grandchild from their deceased child without consent, all because we want a part of them to live on. This raises all sorts of questions about the ethics and ramifications of this extended arm of assisted-baby making techniques; not only for bioethicists, but our culture at large. It also left me wondering whether I would have done it if I could when my child died in 2005. The answer?

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