Alex Shendelman

Alex Shendelman
Program Manager, Traumatic Loss Survivor Support Program, Distress Centres, Greater Toronto

Since 2005, Alex has worked with a community of suicide and homicide loss survivors exploring stories of fractured lives, rebuilt purpose and a repaired sense of meaning and trust.

Coping with loss after a suicide or dementia: A journey with Mindfulness
Sunday, May 3, 2020 β€” 9:30 AM to 10:30 AM

It may seem on the surface that there is nothing in common between suicide and an illness like dementia. Dig deeper and you discover stories of loss. Though we are conditioned to seek rational explanations for the losses in our lives we often end up on a profound emotional journey exploring questions of meaning, relationships and identity. It becomes an emotional, cognitive and narrative process of meaning making, relationship deconstruction and identity re-construction.

So we seek answers. It’s arguable that our wrestling with questions around loss are the most challenging, most persistent dilemma we face in our lives. As a culture we more likely avoid those questions because of the profound emotional toll. Instead, we should explore loss, meaning, relationships and identity as they will tell us a lot more about our inner being.

Losses, sudden or chronic, traumatic or enduring are both characterized by questions of meaning, relationships, identity, storytelling and profound emotion. Grief for a survivor of suicide has a sudden onset, whereas grief for a caregiver supporting a person living with dementia is ongoing. Yet, they can both cause a person to reflect on their identities in relation to another person, who may not be around to answer those critical questions.

How do you reconcile with grief when it may come at some personal cost or even fault? Let us throw in the mix, the role of intergenerational genetic trauma – a person who has been a caregiver to a family member with dementia, and now lives at significant risk of developing that condition in their 40s – 50s. How do you live your life with a ticking time bomb over your head?

Participants will come away with:

  • Differentiating grief and trauma from suicide loss and dementia from other types of losses
  • Meaning making in the process of coping
  • The role of mindfulness and self-compassion
  • Specific tools for coping
  • Recommendations for programs and research