Staff CounsellorGloucestershire Counselling ServiceGloucester
The PABBS training course I attended in Gloucester in February, was very insightful. I was left thinking about my own attitudes to suicide as well as the fear and anxiety about death in general. Which has been a positive outcome of the course. I have not been personally affected by a suicide. Though, I did counsel a client whose best friend killed himself. He was left feeling responsible for his friend’s death because he had been too tired to respond to his last phone call on the night he took his own life. I have to admit that I felt poorly equipped in the counselling room. I think I am better prepared now, even after only this one day of training. Many of the course delegates had been affected by suicide bereavement. I was touched by the quiet humility of others as they shared their stories. Until attending the training day, I had not fully appreciated the need to speak freely about a bereavement through suicide. Nor had I recognised how isolating a person can feel through experiencing a bereavement this way. Besides the very good audio- visual content which reflected those experiences, the PABBS course offered attendees an open platform to share their feelings of intense shock, disbelief, pain, guilt and sometimes abandonment. Finding some relief perhaps, that they were not alone in their experiences? The course facilitators were excellent and sympathetic to those who wanted to speak, allowing them as much time as they needed. Observing this ‘open forum’, brought into focus the importance of being able to offer more opportunities for all those bereaved by suicide to be heard if they want to be. A place for them to go where they can speak openly about what they are feeling and thinking. The PABBS training course taught me that in my counselling role, I have to be willing to BE with a bereaved survivor of suicide. To listen to them and acknowledge their pain. Not by trying to offer them answers when there aren’t any, nor by attempting to erase their pain but by patiently sharing a dark and lonely place with them. Allowing their grief to be explored for as long as it takes. Death is a pretty taboo subject. Death by suicide even more so. Training courses like PABBS bring the subject out of the closet where it can be aired and thought about. It shouldn’t be shamefully packaged and kept under the counter. Suicide provokes powerful emotional reactions. This was evident throughout the training day. It is an uncomfortable subject but one that is not going to go away. There needs to be more availability of training courses like PABBS to help people like me, find ways to help those left behind after a suicide. They are the ones who need to negotiate a tricky path towards a kind of acceptance that their loved one chose death over life.