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Helping survivors of suicide loss help themselves

Suicide is the third leading cause of death for adult Quebecers. Only cancers and heart disease kill more people aged 18-64. In 2013, 1,101 deaths in Quebec were suicides, reports the Institut national de santé publique du Québec.

For every life consumed by suicide, many more lives are shattered, sometimes destroyed. The family and friends of those lost to suicide deal with their grief along with the stigma. Occasionally they are asked to join a conspiracy of silence about the death of their loved one, to attribute the death to something other than suicide. There is always the shock of a sudden, seemingly inexplicable death of a loved one. Feelings of guilt, anger, shame, and bafflement are commonplace. The need for support is immense.

Montrealers who have lost a loved one to suicide need not be alone in working through such profound grief. Nelly Martinez, retired McGill University Hispanic Studies professor and Certified Life Coach, is offering a seven-week
program for survivors of suicide loss. The program
is in its third year.

Martinez offers the program free of charge to honour her beloved niece Lorena, who died by her own hand in the summer of 2011.

When she couldn’t find one dedicated to helping the survivors of suicide loss in Montreal, Martinez created the program. She based it on intensive research and her 13 years as a facilitator for a coping skills workshop for people living with cancer. The program is built upon Martinez’s solid background in psychology and over 40 years of either participating in or facilitating workshops on emotional growth. It is based on her personal experience.

The Seven-Week Sharing and Learning Workshop aims to set in motion the process of transforming the post-traumatic stress resulting from the death by suicide of a loved one into post-traumatic growth. Empathy, compassion, coping strategies and practical skills are part of each session. Participants learn from Martinez – and from each other – that the power to heal comes from within.

“This is my season of deepest sorrow, of painful loss, of sometimes wishing that I were dead,” one participant wrote. “I am comforted that we have gathered together to talk about the curse of the What-ifs, the Should-haves, and the Could-haves.
Discussing feelings and facts sheds light on these issues and inhibits these thoughts from festering or turning into a runaway virus that could consume us.”

The Seven-Week Sharing and Learning Workshop is held three times a year. The group meets once a week. The next session begins Oct. 11, 6:30 p.m. at the Westmount YMCA, 4585 Sherbrooke W. Info: zmartinez@mcgill.ca  514-933-0292

One Comment

  1. Rona relays to you her great interest in this kind of therapeutic activity has been part of her professional concern for many many years in the military context

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