NEW YORK (November 9, 2015) – Karen Heisig of Rochester, New York, met her husband, Maurice, at Niagara University in her first few days as a college freshman. They fell in love and were married two years later. While attending college, Maurice was in the ROTC, the college-based officer training program for the US Army. He enjoyed years of service in the Army and remained passionate about the military until he retired. Maurice, or “Mo” as his friends called him, loved running, hiking, and the beach. He graduated at the top of his class in high school and college. He was a devoted father to his two children and was a practicing Catholic. So when Mo took his own life in 2006, Karen struggled to understand why and find a way to move forward in her grief.
It wasn’t until Karen attended an annual Survivor Day event that she realized she wasn’t alone in her grief. Led by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), Survivor Day is the one day a year when people affected by suicide loss gather around the world at local events to find comfort and gain understanding as they share stories of healing and hope. Survivor Day 2015 takes place on Saturday, November 21.
“Losing my husband to suicide is a part of my story. I can’t change that. But I do get to decide whether I let the experience make me bitter or whether I get better as the next chapter unfolds,” said Karen Heisig, suicide loss survivor and Survivor Day organizer. “Survivor Day provides a safe environment for people to let their guard down. Suicide loss is a very complicated grief. If I can give people tools to move forward and help them not let their grief consume them, it helps me to heal myself.”
This year’s Survivor Day events will include a screening of the new AFSP-produced Survivor Day documentary, Family Journeys: Healing and Hope after a Suicide, directed by Jeff Gersh of Portland, Oregon–based NarrativeLab Communications. These events are free and open to the public.
“Suicide can tear a black hole of sorrow in a family. But grief can also draw them closer together as they discover new aspects of themselves and their family members,” said Dr. Christine Moutier, Chief Medical Officer of AFSP. “With our Survivor Day events, people are able to gather to talk about the loss they experienced and find comfort in the knowledge that they are not alone.”
History of Survivor Day
In 1999, Senator Harry Reid, a survivor of his father’s suicide, introduced a new resolution into the U.S. Senate. With its passage, the U.S. Congress designated the Saturday before Thanksgiving International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day, a day on which friends and family of those who have died by suicide can join together for healing and support.
To learn more or find a Survivor Day event near you: survivorday.org
Like what you're reading? Sign up for AFSP's monthly Blog Email, where you'll find blog highlights from the previous month, creative writing exercises, and assignments for upcoming topics.
Write a blog post for AFSP! Click here for our Submission Guidelines.