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Impact of Language on Survivors of Loss. Helping Clinical Professionals, Clergy & Gatekeepers use appropriate language with persons who are Survivors of Suicide Loss as they grieve. What to Say: How to Help Someone Coping with a Loss Due to Suicide. Donald P. Belau, Ph.D.

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Impact of Language on Survivors of Loss


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    1. Impact of Language on Survivors ofLoss Helping Clinical Professionals,Clergy & Gatekeepers use appropriatelanguage with persons who are Survivorsof Suicide Loss as they grieve

    2. What to Say: How to Help Someone Coping with a Loss Due to Suicide Donald P. Belau, Ph.D. Lincoln/Lancaster LOSS Team Clinical Director donald.belau@doane.edu 402-759-0573

    3. Overview • A way to deal with the Why?? • LOSS Teams’ power of influence through interactions • 7 Keys to Using Healing Language • Role Playing--practice • Tips in dealing with children & youth grief that can be shared with adult survivors

    4. Why? • Sudden Death leading to the Unanswerable "Why?" • Trying to make sense of or understand sudden losses can be difficult. Survivors are left asking "Why?" "Why did this happen?"

    5. Why? • The suicide of a loved one are beyond anyone's control; they are a sudden, unexplainable loss.

    6. Why? • It is human nature to want to answer the question "Why?" yet it may be difficult if not impossible to find an answer. • Instead the question "Why?" is more of a plea for meaning and understanding.

    7. Ways to Help • There are many possible perspectives for coping with this difficult question: • When death has shaken your faith, "Why?" "Why must my life be filled with sorrow?" "Why?“ “Why did this have to happen?”

    8. Ways to Help • There are no pat answers. • No one completely understands the mystery of death. • Even if the question were answered, Would the pain be eased, your loneliness less terrible?

    9. Ways to Help • "Why" is more than a question. • It may be an agonizing cry for a heart-breaking loss, an expression of distress or anger, disappointment, bewilderment, alienation, and betrayal.

    10. Ways to Help • There is no answer that bridges the chasm of irreparable separation.

    11. Ways to Help • There is no satisfactory response for an unresolvable dilemma. • Not all questions have complete answers. Unanswered "Why's" are part of life.

    12. Ways to Help • The search for answers may continue but the real question might be: • "How [do I] pick up the pieces and go on living as meaningful as possible?“

    13. Ways to Help • Assure survivors that is permissible to ask why as often as needed—until one day—the urge to ask why declines. • This may mean the journey of acceptance has began.

    14. LOSS Teams’ Influence • Seeking help when you are ready is a sign of strength, and the ability to move forward. • LOSS Teams can facilitate this process by using language that has evidence to support the its use. • Training & practice of these language skills allows for the LOSS Team to be effective in assisting survivors in moving forward.

    15. Ways to Help • How does one know they are ready to seek help? • Tricky question • Not really!! • Key is the LOSS team visit

    16. LOSS Team Interactions • The visit of the LOSS team has multiple purposes & the language skills used can: • Instill hope by personalizing themselves • Inform as to self-care, coping & the uniqueness of grief • Provide a sense of connectedness • Offer support and referrals to resources • Use of the power of invitation • Reduce self-imposed isolation

    17. Hope • Hello, I am ………… I am sorry for your loss. • We are here to provide any support or answer any questions that you might have. Can I get you anything? What is the most pressing concern you have? • Each of us have lost someone to suicide, and are willing to share whatever time you need now and later, even if it is days or weeks from now.

    18. Hope • What not to say--- • I understand what you are going through. • He/She is no longer in pain • Things will get better, I know it

    19. Self-care & Grief • Promote self-care by acknowledging the draw to drinking or self-medicating—but pointing out this can impair relationships, judgment, etc. • What do you do to relax? What are your interests, hobbies, etc.?

    20. Self-care & Grief • Offer the idea of seeking help via support groups, counseling, faith leaders, friends, and family. • Speak openly that some will experience ‘grief bursts’, and that they will decrease with time

    21. Self-care & Grief • What not to say: • It is ok to tie one on—you will feel better. • Crying is normal, everyone does it. • Everyone goes through stages of grief—over and over.

    22. Connectedness • Explore safe conversation by connecting with visual artifacts or pictures • I see that your family/you liked to….. • Use observable strengths, talents, to build a bridge

    23. Connectedness • What not to say: • I don’t see any pictures of ………… • Were you close? • Any intrusive statements that could be viewed as probing

    24. Support & the Power of Invitation • Ask for permission to follow up— • Would you mind if I or some member of the team check in with you? • There are support groups available, would you mind if I called you to see if you able to attend a support group with me or fellow LOSS team member?

    25. Support & the Power of Invitation • What not to say: • There is a support group meeting on ….. at …. • I will be checking up on you to see how you are doing

    26. Reducing Self-imposed Isolation • Reinforce the power of connecting with others as this promotes healing and reducing the natural response to isolate with one’s misery and pain

    27. Reducing Self-imposed Isolation • Engagement in simple activities, often with peers who have had losses as well will promote healing • Participating in community-based walks and activities that draw attention to suicide prevention, and postvention activities.

    28. Reducing Self-imposed Isolation • What not to say: • Everyone needs to get involved in something • If you don’t get active, you will suffer the consequences

    29. 7 Keys to Using Healing Language

    30. 7 Keys to Using Healing Language • Promote Respectfulness • Strive to be Nonjudgmental • Be calm & relax before engaging in the visit—take several deep, cleansing breathes • Use clear short phrases with emphasis upon open ended questions • Focus on listening with your inner ear • Use rich nonverbal communication • Monitor the emotion of the visitation experience & look for a safe, positive exit within a 45-60 minute period of time

    31. Promote Respectfulness

    32. Strive to be Nonjudgmental

    33. Be calm & relax before engaging in the visit—take several deep, cleansing breathes

    34. Use clear short phrases with emphasis upon open ended questions

    35. Focus on listening with your inner ear

    36. Use rich nonverbal communication

    37. Monitor the emotion of the visitation experience & look for a safe, positive exit within a 45-60 minute period of time

    38. Practice Role Playing

    39. Supportive Comments Focusing Upon Self-care

    40. Supportive Comments • Letting the survivor know that there will be days that will drag on, painfully slow—that they can move through those days by focusing on one hour at a time, by reaching out even if they do not have the energy.

    41. Supportive Comments • The power of normalcy is healing—using terms such as---”most people will feel drained”, most people find ways of connecting”

    42. Supportive Comments • Looking to connect with the survivor builds bridges by commenting upon environmental clues to build a relationship.

    43. Supportive Comments • If a survivor, explain briefly your loss.

    44. Supportive Comments • If a clinician, acknowledge your interest.

    45. Supportive Comments • If a friend or peer, reach out with simple courtesy.

    46. Supportive Comments • Finding a routine is critical

    47. Supportive Comments • Consider journaling as a way to move forward through your grief and pain which allows healing to begin • Share your feelings and thoughts as often as you need

    48. Supportive Comments • Others???

    49. Supportive Comments Focusing Upon Coping

    50. Basics on Coping for the Survivor • It is important for the grieving person to take care of him/herself following a sudden loss. • He/she is dealing with an event that is beyond his/her control.