Grieving the loss of a colleague to suicide
Coping with the aftermath of suicide is difficult and can be a long process
When Ruth Perry, a headteacher took her own life after receiving an ‘Inadequate’ rating from ofsted at her school, Caversham Primary School, it can only have left a gaping hole in the lives of her family, her colleagues, and the children in the school.
Her unexpected death must have been a crushing event for the school community. Teachers, staff, parents, and pupils were likely to have been left reeling from the loss of someone they respected, admired, and relied upon.
The immense pressure put on teachers by a two-day inspection is huge. The outcome can impact school funding, staffing, intake, and more. As Ruth’s death reminds us, a one-word inspection outcome can have cruel and devastating consequences for those who have been under scrutiny.
The loss of a colleague to suicide can be a profound and deeply unsettling experience for those left behind, particularly for staff members who may have worked closely with the individual. Coping with the aftermath of suicide is difficult and can be a long process.
Ruth is sadly not an isolated case and there is a rising number of primary school teachers completing suicide.
If you have experienced the loss of a colleague to suicide, here are some ways you can help yourself:
Reach out for support: It is essential to connect with others and seek support during this time. This can be colleagues, friends, family, or mental health professionals. Sharing your thoughts and feelings with someone can help you process your emotions and alleviate some of the pain and stress.
Take care of yourself: It is crucial to prioritise self-care during this time. Eating well, getting enough rest, and engaging in activities that bring you joy can help you cope with stress and grief. Take breaks as needed, and don't hesitate to ask for help with your workload.
Acknowledge your feelings: Allow yourself to feel the emotions that arise after the loss. Grief can be a complex process, and it is essential to acknowledge and express your feelings. You may experience a range of emotions, including sadness, anger, guilt, or shock. Remember that it is normal to feel this way.
Attend the funeral or memorial service: Attending a funeral or memorial service can provide a sense of closure and help you process your emotions. It can also be an opportunity to show support for the family and other colleagues.
Seek professional help: If you find that your emotions are becoming overwhelming or interfering with your ability to function, consider seeking professional help. A therapist, grief specialist, or counsellor can help you process your feelings and develop coping strategies.
Participate in a support group: It can be helpful to connect with others who have experienced similar losses. Participating in a support group or online forum can provide a safe space to share your thoughts and feelings with others who understand.
Remember them: Focus on the memories you have of your colleague. Celebrate their life and the impact they had on the school community. Creating a memorial or tribute can be a way to honour their memory and keep their legacy alive.
Remember that coping with the loss of a colleague to suicide is a process that takes time. Be patient and kind to yourself as you navigate your emotions and seek support from those around you.