Early responders play a vital role in supporting people who have lost someone they care about, someone they know who has died by suicide. Suicide loss is profoundly different than other loss and grief in that it is a intentional act that can have crippling effects for the family, friends and other survivors. Suicide ... is a complex, multi-faceted problem leaving some survivors who have a loved one die by suicide with their life as they knew it changed forever.The guide begins by explaining the unique characteristics of suicide loss and describing the reactions of survivors that commonly occur, framing its advice with this very helpful observation:
Whatever reactions, feelings, or questions the survivor has ... this is understandable and alright considering the terrible situation and loss they have experienced. There is no right or wrong way to feel, respond or grieve.
• "What do you need right now?"
• "Can I call someone for you?"
• "Who and what has helped you before during a difficult time?"
• "This is a very difficult time for you, can I help in any way?"
• "Would it be helpful for you to talk about what has happened?" (Note: Survivors should not be compelled or persuaded to "tell their story.")
• "Sudden death can be a traumatic, shocking and overwhelming. Your reaction and feelings are quite normal and understandable."
• "When you are ready, you may want to talk to someone who can help you sort through this experience and all the feelings and thoughts you are having."
• "When someone dies by suicide, it may seem to overshadow everything else, even the way we think about the person who died. How someone died does not define who your loved one was or your relationship with them."
The guide also covers awareness of suicide risk among loss survivors, using the safeTALK (Tell, Ask, Listen, Keep safe) format from LivingWorks. It also closes with an excellent section on compassion fatigue and self-care. (The resource pages in the guide focus on Canadian and Winnipeg resources, so U.S. and other audiences who use the guide will want to distribute with it information about local resources.)*Note: The guide has been added to the After a Suicide resource clearinghouse (in the First Responder section.