Survivor Day Programming Ideas
About This Page
On this page, you’ll find some inspiration to help you build your Survivor Day program. Many thanks to the Survivor Day organizers who posted pictures in our designated Facebook group!
Have any creative ideas of your own that you’d like to share with your fellow organizers? Send them to AFSP’s Loss & Healing Department at [email protected].▲ Back to Top
Topics for Keynote Speeches, Group Discussions, or Educational Sessions
- Survivor Day
- Handling the Holidays
- Posttraumatic Growth
- What is Suicide Grief?
- Men & Grief
- Family Dynamics/Marriage in the Wake of a Suicide Loss
- Suicide Loss in Children & Teens
- Suicide Loss & the Role of Spirituality in Healing
- Identity Challenges after a Suicide Loss
- Integrating Suicide Loss into Your Life As a Loss Survivor
- Maintaining a Relationship with Your Loved One (include practical suggestions)
- Coping with Challenging Grief Emotions after a Suicide Loss (e.g., anger, guilt, shame)
- “Resolving” the Persistent “Why?” Questioning after a Suicide Loss
- Depression and Other Mental Health Challenges Experienced by Suicide Loss Survivors & Healthy Ways to Cope
- Re-Engaging with Life after a Suicide Loss (as a different person than you were before)
Art Therapy Activities
Art therapy activities are often very well-received, especially when they allow attendees to create a take-home item by which to remember their loved ones as well as the day—Survivor Day—itself. You’ll find some suggested activities below.
Decorating Rocks: One organizer placed the following
inspirational message on her craft table: “Stones are enduring, strong, and timeless. This stone is a symbol of the enduring memory of our loved ones, the timelessness of our grief, and the strength we embody as survivors of suicide loss.”
Writing a Letter to Your Loved One
Writing a Message to Your Loved One: Messages can be written on pieces of colored tissue paper, which are then placed in a large bowl of water.
Making a (Christmas) Tree Ornament
(Remember that not all attendees may celebrate Christmas.)
Making a Thanksgiving Centerpiece: A decorative jar contains a branch on which handwritten tags can be placed that say what you’re thankful for about your lost loved one; on Thanksgiving itself, guests can add more tags to create this centerpiece as a way of including your loved one into the holiday.
Decorating Glass Tea Light or Candle Holders: Have attendees decorate glass holders in tribute to their lost loved ones with glass paint markers; provide battery-operated tea lights or candles for the attendees to take home.
Decorating a Frame for Your Loved One’s Photo
Making Mason Jar Candle Holders: Apply glue to the inside of a Mason jar and coat it with loss relationship-specific colored sand (similar to our honor bead colors); provide tea lights or battery string lights to illuminate the jar.
Making a Kintsugi Artwork: Kintsugi (“golden joinery”) is the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with gold; attendees fill the spaces between mosaic tile fragments with gold paint to symbolize how we might fill the broken pieces of our lives after a suicide loss with hope.
Creating a “Treasure Box” (can be wood decorated with paint, beads, fabrics, etc.): These can be used to hold special mementos of lost loved ones as well as commitment cards.
Decorating Planters: Provide forget-me-not seeds for the attendees to take home.
Making Potpourri Jars: Provide various kinds of potpourri and assign meaning to the potpourri bag types (e.g., purple = Hope, green = Courage, red = Strength; other colors might stand for Peace, Resilience, etc.); let attendees choose which potpourri to put in their jars; provide battery string lights for illumination.
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Many events include displays used to commemorate the attendees’ loved ones lost to suicide. These displays often take the form of a PowerPoint slideshow of the digital photos that attendees are able to submit when they register to attend an event (a memorial PowerPoint template will be posted here).
If you’d like to display an AFSP Lifekeeper Memory Quilt, click here to find an quilt organizer in your area.
Framed picture displays are also a popular option, as are collages that include pictures and attendee messages to their loved ones.
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Closing ceremonies can draw on a range of spiritual beliefs, e.g., meditation/yoga, candle-lighting, drum circle, etc. (Since events are ideally nondenominational, we do advise against prayer circles and the like.)
However you choose to close your event, please be sure to end on a hopeful note.
Below are some other tried-and-true closing ceremonies to inspire you.
Collaborative Candle Ceremony: Attendees pour wax granules—in the color signifying their loss relationship—into a candle holder to make one big candle. The candle signifies how, even though each is on their own journey, they are united through suicide loss.
Balloon, Dove, or Butterfly Release
(Check local laws first!)
Poetry Reading: check out some suggested poems here.
Sharing Impressions of the Day: Each attendee is asked to share something they found helpful about the day or to share the art project they made during the event.
Sand Ceremony: Attendees take turns pouring sand in the color signifying their loss relationship into a large vase. What follows is a script that was used during one such ceremony:
“We started with an empty vase… that same empty feeling that many of us felt after suicide touched our lives.
And while each individual grain of sand was poured into the vase to represent the individual aspects our loved ones—their wishes, their personal dreams, and their solitary hearts—the vibrant colors remind us of our own wishes, our dreams, our hearts.
This vase—empty no longer—which holds the stories of each of our loved ones, is now a beautiful blend of colors.
No longer am I—or you—an individual standing alone. Our stories are now irreversibly linked, like these grains of sand, and together our individual stories are now part of a bigger story. A story that demands attention to this cause, a story that will raise awareness, a story that will help to bring about change in public policies.
These different grains of sand are now so intertwined that they are essentially one. And while we are different people, with different paths, different losses, different struggles, we are one. We no longer walk this journey on our own. We are not alone.”
Star Ceremony: Each attendee writes their loved one’s name on a pre-cut star. The stars are then placed in front of a sky backdrop. When the lights are dimmed, the stars look as if they are part of the sky.
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Additional Program Suggestions
- Therapy dogs
- Guided Meditation
- Musical Performance
Loss Survivor Goody Bags
Some Survivor Day organizers like to send their attendees home with a memento of the day. Here are a couple of examples.
Decorative Kintsugi Clay Pots: This gift was inspired by the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold—signifying “that the pieces are beautiful for having been broken,” as the organizer explained. “We used broken clay pots we put back together with gold hot glue and filled with greenery that included cardinals and other birds. It was a huge hit!”
“Cup of Hope”: Enlarge the image on the right to see what was included in the attendee gift pictured below.
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