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Support group for those bereaved by suicide encourages more people to share their experiences

Suzy Clifford, who runs support groups for people who have been bereaved by suicide.

Suzy Clifford, who runs support groups for people who have been bereaved by suicide.

Organisers of a support group for those who have been bereaved by suicide are encouraging more people to attend monthly meetings where they can speak confidentially with others who have had similar experiences.

The Lowestoft branch of Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide (SOBS), which provides free and indefinite support for those people bereaved by suicide, was launched in October 2014.

Two years on the group has supported many survivors, however organisers believe more could benefit from attending the meetings but feel unable to do so, due to varying personal reasons.

SOBS Suffolk co-ordinator, Suzy Clifford, said: “The last few years have been challenging but we are here to stay in Lowestoft. It seems people are more reluctant in the town to open up that suicide has happened in their life.”

Mrs Clifford set up three SOBS groups in Bury St Edmunds, Ipswich and Lowestoft, after receiving help from the charity following the death of husband Len, by suicide, in 2009.

She explained: “Suicide bereavement is very complicated, as there is an extra burden knowing that person could be with you still if they had made a different decision.

“But we bring hope, while also being realistic as it takes longer than a month or a few weeks but you can, like me, find peace.”

Currently between six and nine survivors regularly attend the Lowestoft meetings, held the first Tuesday of every month.

These meetings have received positive feedback and Mrs Clifford explains survivors comment on being previously “misunderstood” but attending the groups has enabled them to converse with others “who speak the same language as they do”.

Looking to the future she added: “We want to break the stigma and the old fashioned view that it is a crime and should be viewed with shame.

“We aim for society to recognise that a person suffering with grief is as comparable as someone with a physical condition.

“A lot more could be done to reach more people and moving forward. I hope we can do this and offer more support.”

For more information visit www.uk-sobs.org.uk/support-group/lowestoft or call Suzy Clifford on 07531 087623.

RELATED STORY: Lowestoft support group launches new website

CASE STUDIES

Pam Postill, from Carlton Colville, has been attending SOBS’ meetings since October 2015. She said: “My son Daniel died by suicide in March 2015, he was 37-years-old, had a successful career in the City of London. I felt I needed to speak to someone who would know exactly how I felt and in particular another mother or father who had lost a child. Death by suicide is totally different to any other death.

“It’s always tragic to lose a loved one but death by suicide leaves so many unanswered questions. The normality you once knew is no more, it’s like waking up in a parallel world, but everything unfamiliar to you, totally strange, and trying to create a new normality.

“SOBS are always there just on the other end of the phone, Suzy the Lowestoft leader and all the other members and friends are so helpful and understanding.

“At times the heartbreak is overwhelming, and being able to release these feelings is a relief. It is so important to talk and release all those feelings. It took me a while to realise I needed help to adjust to this strange new world without my son, coming here each month, we gain strength from each other, we are like a family unit. There is no pressure to speak until you are ready to, you can just sit and listen to others and participate when you feel able.

“I would say come for a coffee and just experience the evening, you will never know how much SOBS can help you unless you try. I really feel we need to highlight this wonderful charity to everyone, so people know there is someone out there who cares.”

Christine Bull from Gorleston, said: “When I was 21 or 22 my father took his own life in 1973 but I did not deal with it at the time. Then 15 years later I started to suffer from panic attacks and had a nervous breakdown, I received counselling at the time but after recently attending SOBS it has helped me a great deal.

“Even though it had happened a long time ago, attending with my daughter-in-law Toni, who’s brother had taken his own life, we were able to support each other.

“I did not think I still had issues left to talk about but going along and talking brought things up which really helped especially as I was in a group talking to people who have had similar experiences.

“It took a time for me to overcome the guilt as you ask yourself ‘what could I have done to prevent this?’ but have you have to accept there was nothing you could do but each individual case is so different and you cannot begin to explain to somebody who has not experienced this.

“It is a case of being with people who understand where you are coming from, you hear what other people do to help themselves and you are able to talk openly about how you feel, which is very beneficial.

“It’s a hard thing to go through but I think if people talked about it more openly it would help- you have to want to be helped for it to work.

“The more you come to the groups, the more confident you become but you do not have to talk if you do not want to.

“The group is very welcoming and Suzy is amazing. She has been really great and made a great deal of difference to both me and my daughter-in-law.”

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