I went to my first Survivor Day barely two months after the suicide of my 21 year old daughter, Katrina. I was hesitant to attend. I was still in shock, struggling to understand what had happened. I was already so exhausted from grieving; I didn’t know if I had any more energy to attend an event. I liked to talk about Katrina, but it was painful. I worried that spending an afternoon with strangers would be all about rehashing all of my feelings of guilt that I couldn’t save her.
Ultimately, though, my need to be with other survivors of suicide was stronger than any of my concerns. That was eight years ago, and I have been back every year since then.
Are you afraid of coming alone to Survivor Day?
Eight years ago, I thought I had no one to attend Survivor Day with me. Just by chance, I happened to mention the event to a friend, who offered to attend with me. Later I realized I had given my friend a way to help me in my grief when neither of us knew how to help me. My fears of being alone evaporated the moment I got to the event because there were other survivors at the event who made me feel welcome and not alone.
If you’re afraid of going alone, consider asking a friend to come with you. If bringing a friend isn’t possible, remember that you won’t be alone at the event. You will meet new friends there.
Are you so exhausted in your grief that you wonder if you have enough energy to attend?
Early in our grief, my husband and I agreed that if we went somewhere, and one of us didn’t feel like they could stay, we would leave. Sometimes we would make plans to do something, get to where we had planned to go, and just didn’t have the energy to stay. So we left.
Know that if you go to a Survivor Day event, you can leave at any time. You can also attend the event online. This would allow you to participate in the safety of your own home or at a place of your choosing.
Are you worried that the day is going to be too sad, and don’t see the point of crying in front of a bunch of strangers?
I thought about staying home. But I was still trying to understand why my daughter took her life. I needed other survivors to listen to my story and for me to listen to theirs. I was surprised to find that the tears shed were of both sadness and joy. You only share what information you want to share. The other survivors at my first event began as strangers; but as they listened and spoke with compassion, I felt a kinship with them that I now realize I only feel with other survivors of suicide. Those who were further along in their grief gave me hope that there is life after a suicide death.
Did you lose someone to suicide a long time ago, and think there is nothing for you at Survivor Day?
The first few years after my daughter’s suicide, I needed to be around longer term survivors who gave me hope that there was still life for survivors after a suicide death. Now, eight years later, I am a survivor that gives hope to the newly bereaved and survivors of suicide who may never have processed their grief to the extent they wanted to. We are a community of survivors of suicide loss, and although our grief journeys are unique to each of us, our individual journeys are aided by helping each other. Know that you may one day be able to pay it forward yourself, helping the more newly bereaved in the way other survivors of suicide have helped you.
Suicide grief can be very isolating. The feeling of being alone in your grief is common. Getting together with other survivors of suicide can help you process your grief. Survivor Day offers an opportunity to be with other survivors in order to share our stories and learn from each other that life does go on, and that you will heal.
I hope you will consider attending Survivor Day on November 19, 2016. Go to survivorday.org to register.
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