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Seeking Supportive Helpers
Tips from Survivors

Seeking Supportive Helpers

A few months after my son died, I followed a recommendation from the Alliance of Hope website and got the book “Understanding Your Suicide Grief, Ten Essential Touchstones for Finding Hope and Healing Your Heart” by Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D.

Dr. Wolfelt wrote about the “Rule of Thirds” and I have read that section over and over.  Here is what he wrote: 

“In my own grief experiences and in the lives of people I have been privileged to counsel, I have discovered that in general, you can take all the people in your life and divide them into thirds when it comes to grief support.

One-third of the people in your life will turn out to be neutral in response to your grief experience. They will neither help nor hinder you in your journey.

Another third of the people in your life will turn out to be harmful to you in your efforts to integrate grief and loss into your life. While they are usually not setting out to intentionally harm you, they will judge you, give you unsolicited advice about what you should do, minimize your experience, “buck you up” or in general just try to pull you off your path to eventual healing and transcendence.

And the final third of people in your life will turn out to be truly supportive helpers. They will demonstrate a desire to understand you and the experience you are going through. They will demonstrate a willingness to be taught by you and recognize that you are the expert of your experience, not them. They will be willing to be involved in your pain and suffering without feeling the need to take it away from you. They will believe in your capacity to integrate this grief into your life and eventually go on to live a life of meaning and purpose.

Obviously, you want to seek out your friends, family, and caregivers who fall into the last third. They will be your confidants and momentum-givers on your journey. When you are in the wilderness of suicide grief, try to avoid the second third, for they will trip you up and cause you to fall. They may even light a wildfire right there in the midst of your wilderness!”

About the Author

Wisdom From Our Community

"Wisdom From Our Community" posts originally appeared on the Alliance of Hope Forum for Suicide Loss Survivors and are reprinted with the permission of the authors. Our online forum transcends time and distance, offering a culture of kindness, hope, and understanding to people who have lost loved ones to suicide. Operating like a 24/7 support group, our forum is supervised by a mental health professional and moderated by a trained team of loss survivors. Members can read and comment, share their stories, and connect with other suicide loss survivors.Read More »