...self care is never a selfish act- it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give it the care it requires, we do so not only for ourselves but for the many others whose lives we touch.

Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Survivors of Suicide- A Grief Like No Other

Pastors and care-givers have the terribly isolating experience of surviving a parishioner, friend or family member who has taken their own life. I found the following advice from former NFL quarterback Eric Hipple:

"It's hard to describe [the pain of suicide] unless you have been close to someone who did commit suicide. That's why those of us who have been through this need to help each other. And please, if you think about suicide, go see a psychologist or a doctor. Get some treatment. Don't wait."

Don't try to reason with someone who is in clinical depression and making suicidal statements or threats. They're in that place because their thinking is compromised. For spiritual care givers, it maybe helpful to report your concerns to the next of kin and/or the physician(s) who is responsible for the care plan. This can be done in the best interests of a person who has come to see you for help, even while you honor the confidentiality and trust of a parishioner by asking for their permission to act on their behalf.

Sometimes we see why suicide runs in families. That's explained, in part, because mental illness is a family and not just a personal problem. The grief of surviving a suicide is so painful that suicide is sometimes seen as the only way out. At the same time, seeing how suicide harms everyone involved may help to limit an at- risk person's suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

Another option is 72 hour observation in a hospital. Although that is temporary, the truth is that being taken into police custody to a safe place may be what is called for. No one will say that such an experience is pleasant at all. But they may still be living to talk about it.

For survivors, some crisis hot lines also partner with support groups, where you can can break through the isolation and loneliness of grieving this loss. Making contact with other survivors can be one of several healing things you can do for yourself and others who share your journey.

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Having been in ordained ministry in the UMC for 34 years, I've experienced the truth that although, clergy are frequently present for others, no one can offer what they don't have.That's why if you're a clergy person, you need someone who will listen to you. Not the random next closest person available, but rather someone like a spiritual director, a therapist, a peer who can be fully present to you. I hope the links and posts you find here will give you ideas, humor, hope and encouragement. Scott Endress

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If you want a formula for making the best of the less-than-perfect and making the most of what you have been given, then begin to compare your lot to what you were before you were born, and it will empower you with wonder every time. John Claypool

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