WIDER CIRCLE CAN DO
This section is intended for the survivors’ wider circle, by which we mean all those family members, partners, friends, employers, colleagues, or teachers
who are directly or tangentially affected by the suicide.
Our aim is to offer help and advice in a situation that has most likely given rise to profound unease and feelings of impotence.
Losing someone to suicide is a traumatic, life-changing experience. It throws everything into turmoil. It is as if the customary flow of life had come to an abrupt halt causing everyone and everything to topple over.
As all the old certainties fall by the wayside, they leave behind a sense of helplessness and confusion so overwhelming that the future seems no longer to exist at all. It is a terrifying plunge into the unknown. Those who experience it at first hand therefore have to rely on others to help walk them through it.
What they need most as they oscillate between despair, fear, anger, and impotence, is someone simply to be there for them, to listen to them, to hold their hand. You can certainly encourage them to talk, but you should never force them to. Probably you have yourself been shattered by the news, so one option would be to talk about your own Devastation.
Sometimes their distress is so great that the bereaved can no longer attend to the matters of everyday life. Taking care of the housekeeping, the shopping, the cooking, and the childcare is therefore a good way of supporting them, as is accompanying them to any official appointments they may have and assisting them with the funeral arrangements. Survivors may well need someone at their side when they say their final goodbyes. But don’t just barge in and do these things. First ask cautiously how you can be of assistance.
The person you are trying to help might already have withdrawn into themselves. Perhaps the help being offered isn’t the right kind of help, or they would prefer to be left in peace to recover from the shock alone. Withdrawing is also a way of restoring some semblance of stability, so try to be understanding and don’t read it as rejection.
Do not try to comfort the bereaved, lift their spirits, or dispense advice. The fact is there is no comfort in such a situation. Nor is the survivor in any state to accept even the most well-meant advice.
Avoid sentences like: “Life goes on” or “Put it behind you” or “You’re strong, you’ll get through this.” And later on, be sure to keep your own impatience in check and not to say things like: “Are you still not over it?” or “That’s such a long time ago. Let it go.”
oder in Depressionen abgleiten, oder wenn das Umfeld auf die Dauer überfordert ist, sollte auf professionelle Hilfe aufmerksam gemacht werden.
Being there for someone who has been traumatized means remaining sensitively attuned to their needs for many years thereafter. It means enduring recurrent bouts of despair and being gently supportive as they slowly rebuild their shattered life. Seeing such extreme distress play out in front of you is hard to bear. Each of us mourns in our own way and the grieving process after losing someone to suicide can take an exceptionally long time.
You may well find it oppressive and exhausting. But don’t break off contact because of that. Even simple things like watching a movie together, eating out with friends, or going for a walk in beautiful surroundings can mean a lot. Even with the best of care, survivors are still liable to feel lonely and cut off from life. Your steadfast friendship, however, will prove to them that they are accepted as they are, which in turn will ease their return to everyday life and show them that life really does go on.
If you suspect that the survivor you are supporting is falling ever deeper into a serious depression, is chronically overwhelmed, or even suicidal, you should raise the possibility of professional help.
FAMILY AND FRIENDS
In the immediate aftermath of a suicide, those hit hardest will need familiar faces around them to give them stability and support.
Suicide should not be a taboo subject at the place of work either.
As an employer, you should reach out to the bereaved if only to discuss how their job might be adjusted to their needs and to explore whichever options might be feasible from the business point of view. You can certainly signal a readiness to engage in a more personal discussion, if you believe there is a need for it; but if the survivor prefers to remain silent at first, this choice should of course be respected.
The work environment with its routine tasks and team solidarity is a source of stability at a time of existential crisis. Retaining this structure and the normality it offers your bereaved employee is therefore a good idea. You may still need to accommodate their specific needs, however – possibly by offering them timeout or shorter working Hours.
As employers and colleagues, try to be attentive and ready to help your colleague through this extremely difficult situation – including by providing long-term support if necessary. Overcoming such a terrible blow and resetting the compass are processes that take a long time and the survivor is bound to benefit from your ongoing kindness and concern.
School is an important social sphere that should not be separated from the private world of the family following a suicide. After all, school and classmates are a source of stability and strength.
A suicide in the family is both terrible and unfathomable for the child or young person affected and their friends and classmates will also be distressed by it. Something as awful as this is bound to trigger feelings of profound insecurity, impotence, and fear. If the child affected becomes isolated, the whole class may be destabilized. This is where you, as teachers, have an important role to Play.
The camaraderie of the class and predictability of the timetable offer both safety and a sense of belonging. Teachers can help the bereaved child or young person and with them the whole class by being discreetly supportive and attentive to their needs.
Creating situations in which suicide can be talked about in a controlled environment can be very helpful. Shared rituals of grieving and leave-taking can also help foster a sense of belonging and the reassurance that comes with it. Your guide should always be the specific needs and concerns of the bereaved as well as the possibilities and resources available within the class. For children, too, the experience of not being shunned or left alone despite what has befallen them will be a crucial to their healing, especially as school is a very large and important part of their lives.
You might at some point feel unable to cope alone. If so, you should seek professional help. The first person to contact might be your family doctor or the local pastor. Talk to them about what happened, about your grief, and about your fears for the future.
Notruf Kinder und Jugendliche
(hotline for children and young People)
0848 35 45 55
Elternnotruf (hotline for parents)
061 261 15 15
Ärztliche Notrufzentrale Notfallpsychiater
(emergency psychiatric Services)
061 325 51 00
Notfall für Erwachsene, Jugendliche
(emergency psychiatric services for children and adults)
061 325 81 81
UPK Basel Akutambulanz
Offene Sprechstunden für Erwachsene
(walk-in psychiatric clinic for adults)
Mon to Fri 8 a.m.–4 p.m.
061 553 56 56
Psychiatrie Baselland, Liestal
Notfall für Erwachsene
(emergency psychiatric services for adults)
061 325 82 00
Kinder- und Jugendpsychiatrie Basel
(psychiatric clinic for children and young People)
061 553 55 55
Psychiatrie Baselland, Liestal
Notfall für Kinder und Jugendliche(emergency psychiatric services for children and young People)
061 689 90 90
Zentrum Selbsthilfe Basel
(centre for self-help Groups)