SUPPORT: Experts and those affected by suicide express the importance of grieving after a suicide or a sudden loss to help move through the loss.
SUPPORT: Experts and those affected by suicide express the importance of grieving after a suicide or a sudden loss to help move through the loss. moodboard

Find strength in mourning

THE grief people experience after a loved one suicides can be more complex than grief in other situations.

One Coffs Harbour local describes grief after losing a loved one to suicide as being a contaminated grief.

Pam Lund had three children under the age of 17 when her first husband took his life.

"You feel responsible, you wonder why you didn't see it coming, could you have done something better," Pam said.

"It's a contaminated-type grief because you're angry at them and you feel bad yourself."

As a mother, Pam put her children first by dedicating herself to supporting them through their grief.

"I had three kids and I then had to support them financially as well as emotionally," she said. 

"I didn't get to finish my grieving until about 7-8 years later because I had to soldier on."

The inability to grieve is what Pam believes was one of the main drivers for her husband's suicide.

Their infant son died a cot death in 1981. The death took its toll on the family, especially her husband.

"He had a week off after he (their son) died and he (her late husband) got really upset at work and wanted to go home," she said.

"They told him that he had taken more than his fair share of compassionate leave and that he had to get on with the job.

"There was no support for the grief back then."

Today, there are more services to help support people through grief such as the Galambila Aboriginal Health Service.

One of the people the service supports is Jesse Richards, whose partner Brad died suddenly in March.

Jesse, 26, said since losing Brad, she had experienced suicidal thoughts and crippling anxiety.

Brad's death brought up the unaddressed pain of losing her mother to a drug overdose when she was nine.

"I think losing Brad has brought out even more depression and even more grief because of losing my mum from such a young age," Jesse said.

"Everyone needs to know about depression, everyone needs to know about grief, I knew what grief was like from a young age but I didn't know how to cope with it."

The support of Galambila has been central to Jesse's ability to grieve in a healthy way.

"I reckon if I didn't have all the help and support I have I reckon I would have been on drugs.

"I've had thoughts about it, I've had thoughts about taking drugs heaps," Jesse said. 

"I reckon I'd be going down my mum's path."

Working through grief is a road full of ups and downs but Jesse has strategies in place to help her though those hard days.

They include making appointments with her doctor or keeping busy with simple activities like cooking or doing exercise.

Lifeline Coffs Harbour trainer co-ordinator Rachel Richardson hopes a new bereavement group starting in late August can help locals affected by the complex grief of suicide.

Rachel says the monthly group aims to create a space of support by talking with others in similar situations and the facilitators, who are all trained by Lifeline.

Some facilitators act as "a model of recovery" having lost a loved one to suicide.

Psychologist Tony Homer is helping Lifeline roll out the group in Coffs Harbour.

He says the group offered support a lot of communities don't provide.

"People feel emboldened by hearing other people's situations or stories and they feel safer when someone else has shared their experiences," Dr Homer said.

Grieving a suicide is never fully completed, according to Dr Homer.

Rather, he said the bereaved learned to better manage the overwhelming emotions that came with remembering that loss.

Whether it's a loss from suicide or any other sudden death,

Pam Lund expressed the need to provide more support for those bereaved and said a positive from her husband's death was that it taught her children to talk about their well-being.

"I know it's affected my kids in lots of ways," Pam said. 

"The positive is that they have much more empathy for other people and they talk about things straight up, there's no beating around the bush, they talk about what's going on."

Too much is just not talked about."

If you or someone you know needs support about suicide prevention phone Lifeline on 13 11 14.



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