At the tender age of six, Marie-Elsa Bragg tragically lost her mother to suicide. Many years later in 2019, the priest and therapist published a collection of poetry, prose and fragments of unsent letters to both her mother (Lisa Roche) and father (broadcaster Melvyn Bragg) in an attempt to reconcile her loss.
Half French, half Cumbrian, Marie-Elsa has worked for over 20 years as a Spiritual Director to people of all faiths and is a strong advocate for international interfaith relations. Our announcement of Marie-Elsa as patron for Cumbrian charity, Suicide Bereavement Support (SBS), marks the charity’s first anniversary.
Having operated under the wing of national charity Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide for nine years, Suicide Bereavement Support was founded one year ago and builds on that experience to focus on offering a truly local service to people living in Cumbria and surrounding areas including North Lancashire and South Scotland.
In addition to online and phone support for those who have lost their loved ones, the charity hosts four self-help support groups across Cumbria, where those left behind by suicide can meet with other people in a similar position. They provide an opportunity to listen, to share, to gain understanding and to connect with others. A helpline service and private forum is also available and is run by volunteers who have been personally affected by suicide.
Confidential and compassionate support
Reflecting on her recent appointment of patron, Marie-Elsa said, “Most of us find ourselves in despair at some point in our lives. As I add my name to the list and those of my parents and grandparents, I feel I am saying that we have lived a life. Like so many people, I’m aware that although we can’t always prevent the difficulties we face, we can change how we cope with them. To have a person or group to turn to is vital. Someone who respects confidentiality, who knows what we’re going through and will support us for as long as it takes to get to the other side.
“The volunteers at SBS (all of whom have been bereaved by suicide) believe in listening and consistently being there. We will talk to you individually and, if it feels right, we can introduce you to a local group run by local people where all are welcome, as well as guiding you towards some resources that might be of help.”
On average, one person a week in Cumbria is lost to suicide. “This is a tough figure to think about,” continues Marie-Elsa, “but not as hard as the bereavement that every family has to come to terms with. And, of course, it’s nothing compared to the suffering of those we’ve lost. SBS provides a support system built for those who have been affected by suicide.”
“When I look at SBS, I see it is a charity that shows yet more evidence that there are good people in this world; and that the caring culture of Cumbria is a part of who we are. Some would say that the bigger the network we build, the closer we are to making the world a better place. But I would say: the more we re-build our networks, the closer we get to affirming our heritage – that of our innate compassionate community spirit and the delight in our local life. As William Wordsworth said in Lyrical Ballads: The best portion of a good man’s life: his little, nameless unremembered acts of kindness and love.”
Support for people touched by suicide
If you are struggling with the death of someone who has taken their own life and need someone to listen to your experience and offer you support, please do get in touch. You can call the SBS helpline on 07572 975 721 (John) or 07896 703 757 (Karan). You can also email [email protected] or you can visit Facebook and Twitter at @CumbriaSBS.