When Suicide Becomes An Option

When Suicide Becomes an Option
©Jane A. Simington PhD

Worldwide, suicide ranks among the three leading causes of death for adolescents and young adults.Nearly 90% of all suicides are associated with a diagnosable mental health or substance abuse disorder.2 The unbearable feelings of despair, hopelessness and powerlessness resulting from their mental illness, trauma, significant grief or abandonment can, despite the best efforts of loved ones and professionals, cause nearly one million people globally, to attempt suicide each year.3 The feelings of loss experienced by professionals and loved ones are magnified when the death they grieve is by suicide. Those whose grief results from a suicidal death are at high-risk for developing a major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, suicidal behaviours and prolonged and complicated grief.4

photo of someone depressed perhaps suicidal

The above information and my experience of working professionally with clients who are threatening suicide and with those who are attempting to heal from the effects of complicated grief and the associated feelings, including the stigma and shame which keeps them from seeking the help and resources they need, has led me to develop a training program to assist professionals in offering effective help to those who threaten suicide and to support the bereaved when suicide results.

This forty-hour Suicide Intervention Certification training is accredited by The Canadian Counsel of Professional Certification Global (CCPC Global.) Graduates of this training from Taking Flight International may apply to CCPC Global for designation as a Certified Suicide Intervention Specialist (CSIS.) Certified graduates of this training also receive 27 Continuing Education Units (CEUs) toward certification or re-certification as a drug and alcohol counsellor from the Canadian Addiction Counsellors Certification Federation (CACCF;) as well as from the International Association (ICADC).

1. Young I T., Iglewicz, A., Glorioso, D., Lanouette, N., et.al. (2012). Suicide, Bereavement and Complicated Grief. Clinical Research, LLS SAS. www.dialogues-cns.org

2. American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Surviving a Suicide Loss: A Resource and Healing Guide. Available at http://www.afsp.org Assessed, 2016-08-01.

3. Ibid Young, et al.

4. Hawton, K., van Heeringen, K. (2009). Suicide. Lancet, 18,373:1372-1381.

PreRequisite: Trauma Recovery Certification

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As Life Ended He Knew He Had Done the Best He Could

Jane A. Simington

Developmental theorist Eric Erickson1 described our final developmental task as being the need to review our lifeto determine if the gods are pleased. In doing a life review, we sort through the various aspects of our life and conclude either with believing we have done the best we could, or determining there are things we need to make right within our self or in our relationships.

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Some time ago, my husband called me for help with the frightening visions that were being experienced by his dying father. As my father-in-law’s life was drawing to a close he began having visions of uniformed soldiers walking around his bed. Each time he described the experiences, he concluded these were the soldiers killed during WWII battles because of the orders he, as their commander, had given.
My father-in-law described that over the years he had often thought about these men, wondered how their families managed their grief and how they had survived without the son, husband or father who had been killed. He mentioned that he had often pondered what the dying soldiers thoughts were of him. Had they blamed him? Had they cursed him? As he reviewed this time of his life and these circumstances, he indicated that over the years, and especially now as he was examining the various aspects of his life, he thought a lot about some of the choices he felt were required of him during the war years.

As my husband and I listened to his testimony, I became aware it was likely that my father-in-law’s feelings about his fears and regrets had become embodied. Embodiment of emotion is not uncommon both during dying and during grief. Known as personification, it is a process in which inanimate abstractions or feelings become endowed with human qualities or are represented as possessing human form.
Acknowledging that part of bringing a satisfactory closure to his life required allowing him to share these deep emotions, and to describe in more detail some of the life events he was now reviewing, his son and I listened attentively.
Over the next days we became aware that in relating some of his experiences, most of which he had rarely spoken of, the visions of the soldiers moving around his bed seemed to lessen and become less terrifying for him. Following one such vision, when he described the uniformed figures and how threaten he felt by them, I asked if it was possible these were soldiers from the unit he had commanded, and that they were coming to welcome him to the other side where he would again be in comradeship with them? My father-in-law was able to accept this reframing of his visions, and through it, alter his own interpretation.

My father-in-law’s remaining days appeared to be peaceful, and since he never again spoke of the soldiers, my husband concluded his father had completed reviewing that aspect of his life and was now able to rest peacefully believing he had done the best he could.

Reminiscence, an important aspect of the life review, is activated by many things including visits, photographs and song. These things naturally stir memories that when stirred can be explored. Happy memories can be re-lived and re-enjoyed, and ways can be found to release the emotional load attached to the difficult ones. In many cases, it is the sharing of a difficult memory with a trusted person that allows for the release of the emotion attached to that memory.

Robin Butler2 described life review as a human need to balance the good in life against the negative. The goal, when assisting another during life review, is to have the person recognize that while their life was made up of both positive and less than positive events, the good outweighed the negative. Circular questions, such as “Tell me what happened after that,” followed by “And then what happened?” and again followed by “And then what happened?” are valuable when helping the person acknowledge the positive outcomes that flowed from what was initially viewed as a negative experience.
It is also important to help a person who is examining past choices recognize we often judge past events based on today’s standards. There is great value in helping the person view events within the context of the circumstances when their choices were made, and then to assist in helping to reframe perceptions of those past circumstances so the person is able to acknowledge that the best possible choices were made.

References

1).Erickson, E. H. Childhood and Society. New York: WW Norton.
2).Butler, R. N. Aging and Mental Health: Positive Psychosocial and Biomedical Approaches. . St. Louis: Mosby.

Wind and the Seasonal Changes of Life

 ©Jane A. Simington PHD, September, 2014

As for man, his days are as grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth.

For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone;

And the place thereof shall know it no more.

– Psalms ciii:15-16

Early this day, as I stood to welcome the sun, I was acutely aware that the whispering breezes were announcing “change.” I lingered to identify from which direction it came. I believe that Spirit rides on the wind and the message Spirit brings depends upon the direction from which the winds blow. This morning, the winds of the West announced that one season was ending and a new was about to begin. I pondered how, during my career as a nurse, I was so aware that when the Wind of Spirit ceased to blow, one way of being had ended and a new way was about to begin.

Autumn trees by Jane's lake

The following information and strategies has assisted many caregivers who choose to help the dying free up their Spirits, so when they cease to breathe, their breath is freed from its restless tides to rise and seek God unencumbered.

1) Recognize the three stages of dying.

Outward focused: The person continues to be interested in the outside world, especially in anything related to their family. Visits and conversations about present events are still desired.

Inward focused: The dying person is reviewing every aspect of life to determine what yet needs to be said and done. During this stage it is helpful to share “remember when” stories. Describing shared experiences can help the person feel a sense of satisfaction with the aspects of their life being reviewed. During this stage, the dying person finds the radio and television annoying for these “noises” distract from, and interfere with, the important task of reviewing life with the goal of bringing a peaceful closure to relationships.

Future focus: The person who is close to death is focused almost solely on the afterlife. During this stage many have dreams of a spiritual nature, and visitations from loved ones who have already crossed-over. Listening respectfully, with an open mind and heart, to anything the dying person chooses to share about such experiences is of great value to the dying person as well as to the listener. Being gifted with sacred stories can alter life in many positive ways.

2) Recognize the difference between pain and suffering.

Both from a clinical and research base, it is recognized that suffering is more than physical pain. When the dying person’s spiritual, emotional and relational concerns have been addressed they can relax and focus on what is of immediate importance, which is to bring peaceful closure to this life and move toward the next. When there is pain that is uncontrollable, even with medication, often the source of the suffering is a need to forgive or be forgiven. A question that can be helpful during such times is: “What do you want/need and from whom do you want/need it?

3) Use the Hand- Heart Energetic Connection –

A loved one can give a lot of energetic support to the Spirit of a dying person by using this Therapeutic Touch technique. To do so, hold the dying person’s right hand with your left hand and place your right hand in the middle of his or her chest. Then using your breath to draw on the light and love energy from above, bring this energy into your own heart’s energy centre and send as much love and light down your right hand and into the dying person as possible. Sending positive energy in this ways helps the dying person feel connected to the energy of the light source. Many energy practitioners who are also nurses testify to the value in using this technique during times of suffering and during times when the Spirit of the dying person is getting ready to transition.

In Conclusion

Because of my varied life experiences, I have been gifted to witness many infants take their first breath and have been with many of all ages as they took their last. I am grateful for these opportunities to witness the Wind of Spirit and its association with these times of great change. This morning as I pondered the wind and reflected on these associations, I recognized that as the West wind whispered change, it was not only announcing a change of the seasons in the natural world, it was reminding me that the Spirit of the Wind blows through each of the seasonal changes in life.

Beyond Christmas Grief: Reducing the Anniversary Reaction Effects

©Jane A. Simington (2013)

 Anniversary reactions can be times of intense emotional struggle for the newly bereaved. Anniversary reactions are experienced usually for a number of years following a death. These often occur at times that held a lot of family time and are often associated with ceremony and celebration. Following the death, the bereaved will often feel an increased sense of loss during such times. Each anniversary makes the more aware of the finality of the relationship they have had.

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Here are some activities I have used both personally and professionally helpful. While I have titled this handout as Christmas and Grief, most of these strategies can be applied any time there is a need to prepare for an anniversary situation. It is well recognized that “preparing for” can alleviate much anxiety. When we are “prepared” we tend to move through the experience with more emotional ease than when we are “ caught off guard.’

 

    

1) Acknowledge that Christmas is coming and that this may be a difficult time for you and your family.

 

I find that acknowledging and planning help us get through difficult times. It is when we allow things to simply happen, for example, if we just “float” into Christmas, that we can more easily get caught off-guard and become overwhelmed.

 

2) Avoid being caught up in what you should do and waste a lot of time and energy on feeling obligated.

 

Instead, decide what it is you really want to do and then place your energy into planning for that, by making a list, letting others know and perhaps even asking for help to ensure what you want to take place does indeed happen. If you do not plan ahead it will likely not happen.

 

3) Remember there are no right and/or wrong ways to celebrate Christmas.

 

There are many lovely restaurants that now offer a beautiful meal. Some even have soft music, gentle songs and harp playing on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. They are becoming so popular you must make sure to have a reservation well in advance. A week at the Ocean, relaxing in the sun at an all-inclusive resort may be better than any amount of grief therapy you could receive this season. What about a ski weekend? One older woman decided to spend her first Christmas alone serving meals at a community kitchen for the homeless. She told me it was one of her most fulfilling experiences.  Could someone else do the cooking this year? Is it essential to have a turkey dinner; would a roast of beef work as well? Can you serve buffet style instead of a sit-down dinner?

 

4) It is okay to create new traditions

 

After my son’s death, I found it important to acknowledge that Christmas would never be the same for my family. Once I acknowledged that I was able to make the decision to do my best to make the season and the day as good as possible. And from then on, even though it was not “great,” it was “okay.” Making that decision, freed me up to make the choices that were right for me and my family. Part of making those choices involved creating new traditions. In making those choice I discovered, that the best way to make it “okay” was to create new traditions. 

 

Remember, all traditions started by somebody changing the order of the way things were done. If you don’t like what you do this year than you can change it again next year. You may try hanging a new ornament in memory of your loved one. Donate money to a favorite charity using the amount of money you would have spent on your loved one’s Christmas gift. Create a collage of favorite past Christmas pictures and honor the good times had. Decorate your loved one’s picture frame in a beautiful Christmas motif. Place a planet on the grave-site, or donate a plant to be placed on the altar in your church.

 

5) Honor your feelings and let others know you will need to do so.

 

When you accept an invitation, it may be important to tell your host and hostess, this is a difficult time of year for you and that you may only be able to stay a short time. Then allow yourself to leave when you need to.

 

6) Spend your time only with friends and family who can support you.

 

You do not have the energy right now to pretend. Be with those who are comfortable with your need to cry and to sometimes be withdrawn and alone. Be with friends who are comfortable when you talk about your loved one. Friendships change during grief as do family relationships.

 

7) Spending money on yourself and looking nice, does not dishonors the one who has died.

 

Buying a new outfit, wearing makeup or jewelry, and spending money on a massage, manicure or pedicure or even on travel are all excellent self-care strategies. These in no way indicate you are not grieving, nor do they say you do not treasure the one who has died. They do say you are trying to move through this difficult process in the best way possible

 

8) Honor your true feelings

 

Cry when you feel sad and lonely and also allow moments of joy to creep in. It is okay to smile again. It is even okay to have a laugh or two. 

 

9) Take good care of your physical self

 

Eat nutritionally; get some physical exercise. Limit alcohol intake. While it can initially make you feel relaxed. It can quickly depress and make your feeling erupt out of control. It is also easy to make it a habit of “drowning” our sorrows. Limit caffeine intake; it can interferes with sleep which is so needed during times of grief.

 

10) Find beauty in the season

 

Let the sights and sounds and smells ofthe season enter your empty spaces. While this will not evaporate your grief, it is a step forward – and that is what grief recovery is all about…one small step at a time.

 

11) Go for a winter stroll.

 

Spending time in nature is a very healing strategy. Nature helps us remember the cycle of life and death and by doing so brings new hope and promise into our lives. Many find nature to be the greatest healer. It was for me, personally. Beginning a “walking out of doors program,” was the best thing I ever did for myself. I can now honestly say “ I walked my grief away.”

 

12) Give yourself permission to add some peace-filled moments to this Blue Christmas

 

This particular Christmas will be a part of your life story for the rest of your days. Make a conscious effort to include aspects, that many years from now, when you recall this season, you will be able to encourage another, by telling them of the things you did which helped you make this very difficult season a little bit brighter.     

A Father’s Love is Eternal

©Dr. Jane A. Simington PhD. June 1,2013

father   When I was a child, I loved to spend time with my father. Being the youngest girl in a large family, I learned early in life that if I wanted his undivided attention, it was up to me to be with him when he was alone. One misty morning as I tagged beside him on his walk to the far pasture, I heard my first echo. As my dad called to the cattle his words returned. Fascinated, I tried. What I sent, I received.

   Numerous times throughout my life I have pondered the Law of the Echo. What we send out returns to us. When we holler hello into a rain barrel, hello comes back.  When we holler “love” into the rain barrel “love,” comes back. The universe is a giant rain barrel from which the echo returns in the form that it is sent forth from us.  Continue reading