January 24, 2017 – I’m always surprised by the emotions I experience when sitting across from someone and hearing their story of suicide loss and how it’s affected their life. No matter how many of these stories I’ve heard, I’m always struck by the unique combination of empathy and reverence I feel for this person who has chosen to share with me one of the worst moments of their life. As a fellow loss survivor and advocate with AFSP, I get it.
I’ll admit it: suicide is really hard to talk about. Like, really, really hard. Most of my friends in college never knew that my dad took his life. My girlfriend found out by Googling his name. So when someone opens up to me, with my three years of involvement and leadership with AFSP, I can only empathize with what happened to their dad, sister, nephew, etc. I understand how hard it can be to open up.
I also understand where they are coming from. As a fellow suicide loss survivor, I know the range of emotions they probably experienced, the questions they probably asked themselves, the guilt they may have felt just for asking those questions. I’m always struck by the loneliness of suicide loss. We, as loss survivors, don’t have a third party figure or concept, such as a physical illness, to vilify. We experience countless episodes of wondering what had been going through the mind of our loved one. We know they were hurting, and we think about it constantly. After losing someone to suicide, we become extremely aware of the pain experienced by our loved one on a daily basis. It can feel overwhelming.
But I understand these emotions in a new light since becoming involved with AFSP. This started a few years ago at our Chapter Leadership Conference, where I had the unique experience of being in a room with 300 other people who understood what I had gone through. Almost everyone in that room was a loss survivor. It was the first time in my life when I was in a room full of people to whom I didn’t have to say or explain anything about my loss. I didn’t have to try to make others understand my past. I realized I wasn’t alone. And I learned that our mission of suicide prevention is moved forward by people who understand.
This year, AFSP celebrates 30 years of service to the suicide prevention movement. Learn more about our history here.