Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanking Those Who Died By Suicide

International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day falls on the Saturday before Thanksgiving and is marked by events in many cities, sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). While others rush around with the start of holiday shopping and partying season, we gather with fellow survivors to speak our pain and remember our lost ones. We set aside time to bring our grieving selves to a place where they are welcomed. 

I’ve been to two of these events and have appreciated the chance to learn from and meet other survivors, especially parents who’ve lost children. This year, I invited my husband, who generally stays away from events in the suicide loss community other than his support group. Amazingly, he said yes. Even more surprising, he stayed for the whole afternoon rather than leaving in discomfort. We were both struck by how nearly everyone in the break-out group for parent survivors had lost a young son. And we were moved by the wisdom of survivors who after many years have, as one put it, “found a place for my grief journey in my life journey.” (You can see Life Journeys: Reclaiming Life After Loss, this year’s helpful AFSP documentary on survivors, here .)

The closing ceremony at the Los Angeles gathering was in a church sanctuary, holding us safe.  We were given thank you stones and asked to thank our lost person for one thing, out loud. “For Noah,” I said, “thank you for your love of life.” “For Noah, thank you for spending your last few weeks with us,” said Bryan beside me. Others gave thanks for things large and small – for making us laugh, for your creativity, for introducing me to sports, for being my goofy big brother, for the memories, for the years we had together, for giving it your best shot. No one hesitated, not even those whose loss was still raw. No doubt we all could have said much more.

“What do we do with this season of gratitude?” asks survivor blogger Janie Cook . “Maybe it would help if we were simply given permission to be grateful without being happy about it.” For the gift of a life that ended too soon, we may feel “a profound gratitude that spills out of us through tears.” 

This Thanksgiving, I’m grateful to Bryan for joining me on the journey. To our older son, Ben, for coming home from his travels to spend the week with us. And to Noah for the love and life we shared for 21 years. I know he would have been here if he could have to bake the pumpkin pie, perch his elbow on my shoulder, and let me kiss him on the head.

1 comment:

  1. The mourner's path continues to be a long journey. How brave and open-hearted of you to feel such gratitude in this season.