Healing and Hope After a Suicide

International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day is Saturday, November 21. This observance was established in 1972 by Senator Harry Reid, a survivor of the loss of his father to suicide. Senator Reid sponsored a resolution in Congress designating the Saturday before Thanksgiving as a day that loss survivors can gather to heal, remember their lost loved ones and share their experience with others who have also lost someone. This day has become known as International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day in recognition that there are no geographic boundaries to suicide loss, and that observances are happening around the world.

isosld-logo_medium_smallFor someone devastated by the loss of a friend, family member, or loved one to suicide, reaching out to find support and understanding from others who know similar grief can be a profound experience. Nothing can eradicate the grief, but meeting others who have been through it can significantly promote healing. Many survivors find new meaning in their lives – and a way to honor their lost loved one – by participating in groups and events that not only provide peer support but also help to educate others about suicide prevention.

Finding Hope in Grief

International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day is an opportunity to engage survivors in understanding that they are not alone and to bring them together around organized community and campus events. American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) chapters are sponsoring events throughout California and nationwide. Click here for a list of events in California. If you don’t find an event in your area, check back as listings are continuously being added.

Events include screening of the new documentary “Family Journeys: Healing and Hope after a Suicide.” AFSP will also host an online event at 10:30 a.m. PST on November 21 that will include a screening of “Family Journeys” as well as a discussion with suicide loss survivors and experts on coping with a suicide loss and a Q & A session with online participants. You can watch this documentary as well as previous years’ documentaries by visiting the AFSP web site.

Resources to Assist Survivors

In 2015, the NaPathways to Purposetional Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention released National Guidelines for Responding to Grief, Trauma, and Distress After a Suicide. The grief after a suicide has been described as “complicated” because in addition to the pain of the loss, survivors often feel shame, anger, and guilt. Survivors frequently experience significant short- and long-term negative mental health impacts, including higher risk of suicide themselves.

The guidelines recommend: “A comprehensive and systematic postvention response on behalf of the people exposed to a suicide fatality must be a core element of all suicide prevention planning and implementation efforts by communities, states, tribes, and the nation as a whole.” The guidelines set out goals and objectives for postvention focusing on survivors and serve as an excellent resource for identifying strategies that an agency, organization and community can use.

For step-by-step recommendations to establish a sustainable local program for survivors of suicide loss, please see Friends for Survival’s “Pathways to Purpose and Hope”- available for free from the Your Voice Counts Resource Center or by contacting Friends for Survival.

Turning Sorrow into Prevention

Many suicide prevention efforts are spearheaded by survivors such as the Suicide Prevention Action Network, a leading legislative advocacy organization formed in 1996 by parents who had lost their 34-year-old daughter to suicide. Click here to read the profiles of survivors of suicide loss who have turned their intense sorrow into action that has led to real change at the community, state, and even national level.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can connect you to a trained crisis counselor at your nearest crisis center, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.