I wasn't originally sure what to expect from the bereavement group but I'm finding it very helpful. The group members are all bonding, in a way, because we're all survivors of a death by suicide and that's automatically a bonding experience. I think I've mentioned before that I thought the facilitator was great and each week my respect and admiration for her increases.
She's very knowledgeable about a number of aspects of suicide, including the latest research, current models, and public policies. It turns out that this is because she co-founded the Waterloo Region Suicide Prevention Council which holds conferences in and gathers research from a number of different areas relating to suicide.
Apparently here in Canada, unlike in the US, the UK, and other countries, there is no national suicide-related public policy. This means that there's no funding available to reduce suicide in Canada. The facilitator said that here in Canada more people die each year from suicide than in motor vehicle accidents - and look how much money goes into reducing motor vehicle fatalities and how little goes into reducing suicide deaths. There's so much stigma associated with suicide that people (including public policymakers) don't even talk about suicide, let alone make policy related to it.
The facilitator also talked about how a person who is suicidal has a chemical imbalance. This makes them deeply mentally ill so that they can't make an informed choice. She also said that in the time leading up to the suicide attempt, the person gets tunnel vision and sees only suicide as an option and that during that time, no one can say anything to change their mind. No one else is responsible for that person's suicide attempt... really, the only thing responsible for it is the illness. For this reason the facilitator said that suicide isn't a sin. I never thought it was, but then I'm not religious.
I find this view quite comforting. My mom struggled for a decade with suicidal thoughts and actions. She had other mental illnesses as well and the combination of all of them was too much for her. Knowing that there was really nothing I could do to stop it - and that it wasn't anything I did - helps. Even though people told me not to, I felt guilty before, as though I had been partly responsible for her death. That guilt is leaving me now and I feel much lighter and freer.
Of course I wish that I'd done more for her and included her more in my life. I feel the same way about my dad, that I wish I could have included him more in my life and tried to make him happier. This feeling is different than the guilt and feeling of responsibility for that person's death; it's more a feeling of regret. I think it's fairly common to feel this way because none of us is perfect, meaning that we sometimes don't take full advantage of our time with our loved one. I know I did my best, and who can ask for more than that?