Bendigo is awakening to autumn. It is a season with a rich palette. The vibrant colours – the reds, yellows, purples, oranges and browns brighten our world.

Some writers have suggested that the cycle of the seasons provides a framework within which to explore the experiences of grief. They see the coloured leaves on an autumn tree representing the many feelings and emotions associated with loss.

Guilt is a normal part of the grieving process. For someone who has lost a loved one to suicide guilt can become a dominant emotion. Dr. Sheila Clark, author of After Suicide: Help for the Bereaved writes “Unless it is dealt with carefully, guilt can become one of the most destructive emotions.”

The primary reasons why people feel guilty are because they weren’t able to do anything to prevent the suicide or they fear that they did something to contribute to it.

As a parent of an adult child who took their life, it is easy to find flaws in your parenting skills, to imagine that your actions contributed in some way to their death. But often it is a misdirected sense of responsibility.

I have come to recognise that there are many factors that contribute to a suicide and that much of my guilt is imagined or unrealistic. Author, educator and grief counsellor Alan D. Wolfelt is adamant, “Allow me to be very direct: You are not responsible for anyone’s decision to complete suicide.”

Watching the leaves fluttering to the ground reminds me that autumn is a time for letting go and releasing things that have been a burden.  It is about relinquishment, allowing the equinox winds to blow the leaves of guilt away.

Author: Bruce Rickard

Reflections on Suicide and Staying Alive: My son's suicide changed everything. I felt an obligation to understand why anyone would want to end their life. My regular blog posts explore the causes and prevalence of suicide and what is needed to sustain a healthy mind and a hope-filled future.

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