International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day is November 19. Find an event near you.
“Survivors of Suicide.” I hadn’t known there was such a thing…but suddenly, I was one. After my son’s death by suicide, I was still standing, but that was about all I was. We lost him at the end of September. At the end of October, two of our family’s pastors, two very special women, independently shared with me that there was an event for survivors of suicide scheduled for the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Since they both suggested it, I figured, it must be something good. I registered online, and then wondered: “What have I signed up for?”
What was I thinking, I thought to myself, going to an event on such a sensitive, personal topic, surrounded by strangers? I was constantly on the verge of tears. What if I started crying and couldn’t stop? I felt so isolated and alone. Wouldn’t being among all those strangers just make it worse? Or what if I saw someone I knew, someone who may not have known how I lost my son? I didn’t want to have to tell my story, to try to explain the explainable. I felt so self-conscious, so uneasy: but I didn’t know what else to do. I needed answers. I went to the conference.
I didn’t find all the answers I was looking for. But I did find a compassionate, understanding, accepting fellowship of survivors, all at different stages on this journey. I found an acceptance of silence, an acceptance of tears, an acceptance of whatever I needed to say when I was ready to say it. I found a new understanding of why my grief seemed so different, so relentless, so overwhelming. I found that whatever I was experiencing was normal, because it was my experience. I discovered that even though each individual has to travel their own road, the road is easier when you’re traveling with those who have had similar experiences.
That first year going to the Survivor Day Conference, I was exhausted, emotionally drained, and unable to stay the full day.
And that was okay.
This November I am planning on attending my fourth Survivors of Suicide Loss Day conference. I stayed for the full day the last two years, and I plan to be there the full day this time. Even if I hear many of the same messages I’ve heard before, it helps the healing process to be reminded that it is a journey, that I’m not on it alone, and that I am a survivor. I hope that others who have experienced such a loss, who are also survivors, will have the opportunity to come and join us.
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