On International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day, AFSP hosted an online program for those who weren’t able to attend a Survivor Day event in person. In addition to a screening of this year’s Survivor Day documentary, Life Journeys: Reclaiming Life after Loss, the program included a discussion about suicide loss between AFSP’s Shannon Donnick and three AFSP volunteers: Dionne Monsanto (New York City chapter), Al-x Gonzalez (Greater San Francisco chapter), and Clarena Tobon Guevara (Central Texas chapter), who also appeared in the film.
Here are ten important takeaways from Survivor Day Live:
- Have a grief toolkit (e.g., Dionne carries around a big pair of dark sunglasses so that she can give herself a moment of privacy when needed).
- Don’t blame yourself for things you didn’t know before your loss.
- Resist the inclination to whisper about your loss. Suicide loss is not shameful (e.g., as an advocate, Al-x encourages coworkers who also experienced a suicide loss not to keep it a secret).
- Be open to trying all resources and forms of support (e.g., support groups, counseling, etc.).
- Allow yourself to take a break from remembering and grieving (e.g., Clarena turns her mom’s photos around sometimes).
- Grief and healing look different for everyone, even within the same family or in response to the same loss.
- Acknowledge moments when your loved one’s memory comes alive for you (e.g., Dionne calls her daughter, Siwe, her “black butterfly” and often acknowledges Siwe when she sees a butterfly, including once while doing hot yoga).
- Don’t be surprised if what helps you in your grief changes over time.
- Consider incorporating your loved ones into the holidays (e.g., since Clarena’s kids will never meet their grandma, Clarena includes her in celebrations by sharing memories of her), but also, give yourself permission to avoid grief triggers during special occasions.
- It’s okay if you feel emotions beyond sadness (e.g., fear or anger).
You can watch the Survivor Day Live program above. And, as always, remember to be kind and patient with yourself.