A Day of Healing for Bereavement after Suicide
I am a survivor of a loss by suicide. I lost my father in 1991. When this happened 25 years ago, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) was only 4 years old, and there was no International Survivors of Suicide Day, which would not be created for another 8 years, through the efforts of Senator Harry Reid who lost his father to suicide. It is always the Saturday before the U.S. Thanksgiving.
Living in a city more than a thousand miles from my family and those who knew my dad, I felt alone, on my own to figure out how to recover. As my husband Roland will tell you, this had mixed results in my grief recovery.
When the suicide of a loved one happens, it is normal to feel all alone, that nobody understands, and that you aren’t sure that you can even tell anyone what really happened. The shame and stigma was real then, and it still exists today. I other survivors to know that you are not alone. There are more opportunities now to participate in events such as the one that I attended today honoring survivors and providing mutual support. There are more support groups, more resources than ever, and perhaps less stigma. Today, survivors of suicide loss around the world attended their own local healing conferences in places as diverse as Bangladesh, Guatemala and South Africa, as well as many listening in online.
On an individual level, survivors can reach out to the Survivor Outreach Program offered by AFSP. More information is on the website, AFSP.org. All volunteers with the Survivor Outreach Program must be a survivor of suicide loss, and must be at least 2 years out from their own loss. Survivors know firsthand how difficult it can be to find your way in the aftermath of a suicide. As trained visit volunteers, they help survivors navigate this painful journey with compassionate listening and understanding. They provide information about support groups, healing conferences such as this one, and other local resources. And they offer reassurance and hope that surviving a suicide loss is possible.