At such a time Megan, mother of two, needed family support not blame and abandonment. She had nowhere to turn for help or understanding and, at one point, even contemplated taking her own life.
But that was over a decade ago – she made it through, drawing support from others with similar experiences. Megan now supports other suicide bereaved by co-facilitating a Tauranga support group.
“When Shawn died I also lost his family. His family laid the blame for his death at my feet – they still do to this day, so I had no support from them,” Megan recalls.
She says her own family swept her husband’s death under the carpet and never mentioned it.
In her grief, Megan says she used her inner strength to continue as best she could, and her friends became her family.
Living in the Manawatu at the time, she took a friend’s advice and dived into a social work degree.
“I took a deep look at myself at that time and grew and grieved with others who had a similar thing happen to them.”
Support found through the Yellow Pages
She joined a bereaved by suicide support group in Palmerston North and received counselling. Four years after Shawn’s death she moved to Tauranga – she had PTSD and anxiety.
“I also had bouts of feeling suicidal, which I had never had in my life. Within two weeks of moving to Tauranga my fingers walked the Yellow Pages to find a grief and loss counsellor.”
That’s how she found Grief Support Services and met Janet Baird, with whom she now runs the After Suicide Support Group in Tauranga.
“I met some wonderful people at Grief Support Services… they had counsellors, support groups and walked alongside people dealing with grief and loss.”
Group helped feelings improve
For Megan, attending a group put her feelings of isolation to rest. She feels she’s now in the right place for herself and able to offer help to others.
“You can talk to people about your own thoughts of suicide and depression. Stories from others can help so much. You can empathise through your personal experience. It gives people space to open up and that may have been the first time in many years they have been able to do that.”
Watching people do this fills her with joy and hope.
Megan says the Tauranga group meets monthly, on Mondays, and has two to eight people at each meeting. Most contact the group by phone first.
“We like to talk to people first and ask a few things like: ‘How did you find us?”’ ‘Tell us a bit about your circumstances’.”
She says the meetings are gentle and there is always a quiet room away from the group if emotions are triggered.
The meetings are usually held in a community space, are free and coffee and nibbles are served.
Key points to remember about going to a meeting: