Yesterday, I gave you all the first part of my interview with Suzette Spence, M.A, L.M.F.T along with her contact information (phone 714-801-6850) If you need therapy for grief, complicated grief, loss, dealing with the suicide of a loved one, she comes highly recommended by With Hope, the Amber Craig Memorial Foundation (www.withhopefoundation.org). For more information on With Hope, check out this cool video that we did about two months ago here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=avd0dwtL6LQ
Now that the plugs are done….let’s get back to the real point of this post….the second part of the interview with Suzette Spence. NOTE: Any websites posted here were found by the writer and not endorsed in any way by Suzette.
Q: Do you feel that a Christian therapist would be a better option for a family survivor over a secular therapist or does it even matter?
A: I do not think that being a “Christian” counselor per se is important as much as having a strong spiritual believe and being open to whatever faith your clients believe in to help guide them through their grief. Some research indicated that if a client has a spiritual belief (any religion, not just Christianity), their grieving appears to resolve sooner and the client tends to have a more positive and philosophical outlook on life. I usually ask about a client’s spiritual beliefs (again, it is not important with religion or faith) and we work on that strength. Often there is community support in their beliefs, rituals, beliefs about life, death and suicide are closely held on to. I have counseled clients from all religious backgrounds, asking them about their beliefs, honoring their rituals and learning from them.
Q: After a loved one take their own life (writer’s note: I hate the term “committed suicide” because it makes it sound like a crime, thus adding to the stigma for the survivors), where should those left behind look for help first?
A: Again, if there is a spiritual community that the client is affiliated with, then finding support in that community (writer’s note again – I can attest to that, my church family have literally been life savers for me). Also friends and family. Finding a Survivors of Suicide support group and personal counseling. If PTSD is involved, considering EMDR (http://www.emdria.org).
Q: What type of education needs to get to the public to try to prevent suicide? Is there enough being done to educate people in schools? At the city level? County level? State level? Federal level? (writer leaves no stone unturned) What more do feel can or should be done? If you were the one making the policies on suicide education and prevention, what would you want to see done? (writer needs a campaign manager, please contact me if interested….ha!)
A: Educate young people, early on, in health classes about depression, mental illness, and addictions (writer’s note: The fastest growing group of potential suicide is the 10-14 age group - http://sperling.site.aplus.net/defiantloveistheofficialwebsiteofdavidjsperling/id43.html). Provide them with strategies they can use if they feel depressed and/or suicidal (i.e. tell them where they can get help). Unfortunately today, most young people have parents that invest a lot of money and time in their children’s academic education but little time in helping them to learn social skills, coping mechanisms for life and just plain reality. Our society is teaching our children that life is fair, everyone can win and no one should fail at anything (writer’s note – talk about setting your kids up for a fall). This social belief system is ill preparing out children for the real world.
Q: Is there anything that you would like to add to this based on your personal and professional experiences?
A: Life is a struggle. Once you accept that, it is much easier to cope, find daily gratitude when things go well and have and having coping mechanisms when they do not go so well. Also everything that has a beginning also has an end. That is true about all of our problems and most of our “struggles.” If young people understood this, and depressed people could hold on to that, they would work through the struggle and allow it to develop their life path with compassion and love (writer throws in empathy as a well). Most of the reasons why people give up and end their lives, are temporary and could have been worked through with time and patience.
Suzette also gave me an article of things to NOT say to a suicide survivor. When I read this my first thought was “I have heard each one of them in the days/weeks/months following my brother’s death. Here goes:
Please consider your words carefully. Do not ask us:
If we are “over it”
If we “feel better”
Please do not say or ask things like:
It is God’s will
Something good will come out of it
At least you have other children
They are in a better place
Time heals all wounds
Were they saved when they died?
Do you think they went to Heaven?
Did you have an argument with them?
Did you they were going to do this?
How did they do it?
Where did they do it?
Can I come in and see?
These are all real things that have been said to survivors.
I had to resist making my typical comments after some of these, but ashumo anyone who actually knows me, or those who have read all or most of my posts, when things get too heavy for me, I have to inject some sarcasm as a coping mechanism. Yes my therapist taught me a thing or two (didn’t get the part about what to do when you’re done with therapy though). So my personal “favorites” (read, the ones that ticked me off the most) were:
Did you have an argument with them? Yeah, because I’m so freaking powerful and influential on my loved one, that one nasty word from me would totally throw them over the edge…..
Did you know they were going to do this? Hello??!! If I knew do you not think I would have done EVERYTHING within my power to move heaven and earth to stop it?
Time heals all wounds. Yeah…wait until the single most important person in your life dies and then come and talk to me.
Something good will come out of it (otherwise known as Romans 8:28) Because now what I really need to hear is that God wanted it this way because it’s part of His master plan…okay well, at the time that really PISSED me off….now farther removed and knowing the path that I have chosen because of this, I am starting to see it a bit more clearly now…but the SAME DAY….Not so much.
To go back to more of the positive side of things…These are things that help us heal and that you can say…..
What are you needing?
Is there anything I can do for you?
What was your loved one like? (Writer could not resist: We don’t want to forget them and most times, talking about them can make us smile)
May I bring you a meal?
Call me if you would like to talk? (writer again – okay, but could you actually answer the phone? I had several people who said call me anytime and then never answered the phone….really helpful)
It’s OK to cry (me again, Thanks for permission to do something I can’t control)
You are not going crazy (I sure thought I was for a while)
I care about and what you and what you are going through.
So there you have it…I know it’s a lot of information all at once, but the day after my brother died, I was all over the internet looking for every possible bit of information I could find. For at least the first week, I could quote statistics like no one else. Finally one of my friends jokingly asked me if this was my new goal in life….I stopped quoting, but never stopped researching.
That’s all for now. I promise my next post ….hmmmm….Sorry I just can’t promise anything about my next post, except that there will be a next post. Take it easy until then.