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Best Practice YouTube PowerPoint below...
On the last track, we discussed three types of bargaining survivors of a teenager’s suicide may use to cope with the trauma. These three types of bargaining are the long goodbye, scapegoating, and cutting off. We also discussed the Rescripting technique.
On this track, we will discuss explaining four concepts regarding responding or (moving on) to a teenaged loved one’s suicide to clients. These four concept are responding is not the same as forgetting, responding takes time, painful feelings are normal, and mourning is essential. We will also discuss the programmed cry technique.
Larry and Melinda, both 48, had prided themselves on being the perfect parents. They spent almost every free moment with their daughters, Becky, 18, and Stacy, 16. Larry and Melinda were well aware that Stacy was a slow learner, and so the couple spent time each evening helping Stacy with her homework and trying to help her feel better about herself. When Stacy turned 17, she took her own life.
Larry and Melinda reacted with anger. Larry stated, "I feel cheated! We devoted our whole lives to Stacy and Becky, and now Stacy has taken our lives along with hers!" Becky, the couple’s oldest daughter, found it difficult to deal with her parents’ pain, and stayed away from home as much as possible. By the time Larry and Melinda entered therapy, she had moved into her own apartment.
Although Larry and Melinda’s ability to express their anger towards Stacy was of course a positive sign, but the couple was clearly not making progress in responding to Stacy’s suicide. In our first session, I explained the process of responding to a loved one’s suicide to Larry and Melinda.
4 Step Process of Responding (Moving On) to a Loved One's Suicide
-- 2. Responding takes Time
-- 3. Painful Feelings are Normal
I stated to Larry and Melinda, "The anger you are feeling is natural, and it is healthy to acknowledge and express this anger. However, it is important to allow yourself to feel other emotions as well. Many survivors of a loved one’s suicide feel guilt, fear, relief, loss, or depression, and may even have suicidal thoughts themselves. Sometimes I have found that when a survivor begins to feel and acknowledge this range of emotions, he or she may feel like he or she is ‘losing it,’ but that is not the case. Feeling a wide range of strong emotions is a normal part of the responding process."
-- 4. Mourning is Essential
I stated to Larry and Melinda, "What I mean by mourning is taking time out from the real world, even briefly, to think about Stacy and your relationship with her. After this period of focusing on Stacy, the goal is to return to your normal life, having made an adjustment to her death, able to respond to the world around you. Mourning is very necessary, but many survivors don’t get an opportunity to mourn because they get stuck. Their guilt or anger is so intense, they stay in their grief not moving ahead."
Programmed Cry Technique
I stated, "This is an exercise you should each do individually. Each of you should choose an evening that you can set aside to take time to cry and express grief." To prepare for the programmed cry, I asked Larry and Melinda to each identify a supportive friend who could ‘be their caretaker.’
I stated, "Your caretaker should be someone who is familiar with the circumstances of Stacy’s death. During your programmed cry, keep his or her number by the phone in case you need assistance."
The 11 steps in the programmed cry are as follows:
Think of your Larry or Melinda. Would the programmed cry technique help him or her start to accept and express a broader range of feelings as he or she begins to respond to the suicide of his or her loved one.
On this track, we have discussed explaining four concepts regarding responding to a teenaged loved one’s suicide to clients. These four concepts are responding is not the same as forgetting, responding takes time, painful feelings are normal, and mourning is essential. We also discussed the programmed cry technique.
On the next track, we will discuss the Letter to Grief technique and the Family Trigger Chart Technique.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Zisk, A., Abbott, C. H., Bounoua, N., Diamond, G. S., & Kobak, R. (2019). Parent–teen communication predicts treatment benefit for depressed and suicidal adolescents. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 87(12), 1137–1148.
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