Suicide loss is a unique loss that is often very isolating. It’s the club no one wants to be a part of…and yet…here many of us are. As the holidays loom, it can be even more isolating as we try to navigate the holidays without our loved one. Whether the loss is weeks old, years or even decades old, the holidays can renew or intensify our grief. When our son died from suicide in June 7 years ago, we dreaded the looming holidays. We were struggling in our grief, everyone around us seemed to be buzzing with the excitement of the upcoming holidays and we were terrified. We felt alone in our loss and we were struggling with how to navigate our first holidays without him.
Attending Common Ground’s Survivor of Suicide Loss Group, we heard about the International Survivor of Suicide Loss Day. We were nervous to attend but were desperate for help. The idea of a day to acknowledge our loss and connect with others who shared a similar loss felt like a relief. We went with no idea of what to expect. In the end, we all got something different from the various activities. We were able to participate at our individual comfort levels. Some talked, some did the craft session, some did none of it but just listened and watched. We all left feeling like we had found some connections, hope and healing. We were given tools to navigate our grief with. It helped us to know that we were not alone in our loss. It gave us the opportunity to listen or talk with others about the unique loss we have. We were surrounded by people who understood.
Survivors of Suicide Loss Day was designated by the United States Congress as a day when the friends and family of those who have died by suicide can join together for healing and support. This day always falls on the Saturday before American Thanksgiving. Each year, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention supports hundreds of large and small Survivor Day events around the world, in which suicide loss survivors come together to find connection, understanding and hope through their shared experience. While each event is unique and offers various programming, all feature an AFSP-produced documentary that offers a message of growth, resilience and connection.
In 2018, 370 total events took place, including 32 international sites in 19 countries. On November 23, 2019 Common Ground, in partnership with AFSP, will once again host our local Survivors of Suicide Loss Day. We will come together at the lovely setting of Kirk in the Hills in Bloomfield Hills. We will provide support and encouragement as loss survivors. The morning will begin with breakfast foods that will be available throughout the event. There will be speakers that are fellow loss survivors sharing how they found hope and healing after their loss. We will watch the documentary from the American Foundation of Suicide prevention. There will be a panel of loss survivors to talk about their unique experiences and take questions. A craft prepared by a Common Ground art therapist will be available for those who want to enjoy a bit of hands on healing. Before the morning ends, we will come together in small groups of shared loss to talk about our personal loss and journey. Each group will be facilitated by a trained crisis worker. There will be crisis workers available throughout the event for support and help.
Whether your loss is fresh or years ago, this event is a lovely way to take a moment to acknowledge your loss in a beautiful setting. You will find connections, hope and healing. You can register for this event here: https://afsp.wufoo.com/forms/international-survivors-of-suicide-loss-day-2019?Field1018=149927&Field1120=0
Author: April Morris, Common Ground Volunteer and Survivors of Suicide Loss Group Lead