‘Huge sense of isolation:’ Learning to move on after the suicide of a loved one

Click to play video '2018 Survivors of Suicide Loss Day is on November 17' 2018 Survivors of Suicide Loss Day is on November 17
Thu, Nov 15: V. Joy Pavelich with the Canadian Mental Health Association joins Global News Morning Calgary to discuss the specialized suicide bereavement team and other resources available to individuals who have lost a loved one to suicide – Nov 15, 2018

The pain, grief and sense of loss following the suicide of a loved one can be a lot to handle for the people they leave behind.

To help family and friends move forward, the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) is holding a special event on International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day this Saturday.

The CMHA’s V. Joy Pavelich said the event is meant to help build a sense of community among those who have lost friends and family to suicide.

“Suicide is extremely complex, so the path forward after a suicide … is very complex and very individual,” said Pavelich.  “There can be a huge sense of isolation for survivors who deal with stigma and worry about sharing their story, so this is a very safe place for people to come.”

READ MORE: Alberta youth discuss suicide more than any other topic on Kids Help Phone

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Pavelich is no stranger to this type of loss.  She lost her son Eric to suicide at 20 years of age.

“We really did think Eric was doing quite well, he had struggled in the past,” she said. “But I think now looking back he was very good at hiding symptoms because he didn’t want to worry us, so he projected a very different face than what he was experiencing internally.”

READ MORE: Suicide prevention: What every parent needs to know

“We miss signs because the individuals that we love are [themselves] filled with love and if this is something love could fix or if they had stayed with us, that love would have been enough,” she said.  “So it shows the complexity of what they are going through and it can change in a heartbeat.”

READ MORE: Alberta woman speaks about her own loss at Lethbridge event marking World Suicide Prevention Day

She said the event will bring together people to talk about the various types of loss — the loss of a parent, sibling, spouse or friend to suicide for example.

“It gives people the opportunity to talk about their very unique griefs, so you might see three different people from the same family talking to very different loss types.”

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It’s important to try to get past the stigma of suicide in order to heal, she said.  One of the aims of the International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day is to open up the discussion around suicide and its effect on the families and friends of the person who died, she said.

“You’re denying yourself the opportunity for that healing that can happen once you open yourself up,” she said.

To learn more about the event on Nov. 17, visit the CMHA’s website.

If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 911. 911 can send immediate help.
The Canadian Association for Suicide PreventionDepression Hurts and Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868  all offer ways for getting help if you, or someone you know, is suffering from mental health issues.