January 31, 2017 – The death of a child is never easy. Compound that with the word “suicide” and things get especially complicated. Not only has the family probably already been dealing with some type of mental health issue or addiction, but they have also probably learned that society doesn’t treat such things in the same way it would a matter of physical health, such as a broken arm or cancer. There is a definite stigma, and in the case of a death by suicide, most people don’t know how to console or offer help. They may not reach out at all, feeling that that is best. Worst of all, for parents who have lost a child, many people will simply stop mentioning the child’s name or any of their accomplishments.
This leaves the parents to find their own way through the grief process. Even a strong marriage can bend under this pressure. It does not, however, have to break.
In my case, soon after the death of my 23-year-old son Jeremy, I was blessed to come in contact with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s South Central New York Chapter, which was in the early stages of formation at the time. I was greeted at an event with a warm hug from the volunteer chapter chair, and the statement, “I know how you feel; I too lost my son to suicide.” I left with a website address and pamphlets, as well as an AFSP bracelet.
This was the start of our healing process. My husband and I were approached about attending a support group, and made the realization that we were not alone. Other events followed and we became involved in AFSP’s Out of the Darkness Walk.
Did my husband and I follow the same path to healing? Absolutely not! I was more comfortable with counseling; my husband preferred to handle his grief differently. We both attended some things we didn’t want to in order to support each other. We came away from each of these events with something we could use to talk about our grief.
Eventually we both found ways to help others who are experiencing the loss of a family member from suicide. In turn, we helped ourselves move forward. Bob is on the executive board of the new South Central Chapter, serving as treasurer and, as he puts it, “the token male.” I am a volunteer who runs our spring fundraiser and helps wherever it is needed. We both have attended trainings to help us better teach others how to recover from this type of loss.
We have learned that marriage can survive and even thrive under difficult circumstances. AFSP has helped each of us, in our own way, to move forward after our son’s death. Now we do what we can to help others do the same.
This year, AFSP celebrates 30 years of service to the suicide prevention movement. Learn more about our history here.
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