Event aims to support survivors of suicide loss
November 19, 2020
Each November, the international community recognizes Survivors of Suicide Loss Day, a time for those who have experienced the grief of a loved one taking their own life to gather together in a safe environment. There, they are invited to find support and understanding from others who are walking the same path.
For the first time this year, Prevention Specialist Katie Allen, sponsored by the Wyoming chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, will be bringing the event to Crook County. It will be held online this year due to the ongoing pandemic.
“It’s a day when suicide loss survivors can gather together to find comfort and gain understanding. The idea is to share stories and be able to spend time with people who have experienced the same type of grief that you have,” Allen says.
“The idea with this particular event is for people who have experienced it in their lives, whether it’s a family member or friend, to be able to talk with others and see how others have gotten through it and moved forward in their lives.”
The event always held the Saturday prior to Thanksgiving to recognize that the holidays can be a particularly difficult time for survivors of suicide loss, and potentially full of grief triggers. Speakers will share their experiences, while this year’s facilitator is recognizing the 50th anniversary of her father taking his own life.
“She was only nine. She’s taken that experience and, over time, turned it into something she helps other people with,” Allen says. “Time may change how the grief is experienced, but the grief is always there.”
The event acknowledges that the grief which follows suicide is a little different, Allen says.
“It’s ok to not be ok. Grief can obviously be overwhelming, but there is support available,” she says.
“Obviously, the emotions after a suicide loss are going to be deeply personal and individualized, and each person is going to have challenges of their own grief, but one of the big points of an event of this type is for people to know they’re not alone on that journey. Healing is going to take as long as it takes, but they don’t have to do it alone.”
Attendees will be invited to consider the idea of forming support groups among themselves, while Allen hopes the event will see new, supportive relationships created.
“The hope is that anyone we have join with us this year to participate will talk about future events and activities that we can do together next year – in person, hopefully – and that we might be able to spring up some survivor support groups as well,” Allen says.
Allen has aimed to create an environment in which survivors can feel safe and comfortable to share their experiences and feelings. To that end, counselors from Northern Wyoming Mental Health will be participating.
“They can talk about the resources available, but also, if we have somebody in the group who is having an extra difficult time and really needs to get out of the group setting, but still needs to speak with someone, I can put them into a private room in Zoom with one of our counselors,” she says.
To ensure privacy for the group, Allen is asking all interested attendees to pre-register. This, she says, will prevent people from randomly showing up.
Attendees are not required to speak if they don’t want to. If you prefer, says Allen, you are welcome to just sit and listen.
“People can share as much or as little as they want to,” she says.
If you have not been directly affected by suicide but would like to learn more about supporting a friend or family member who is a survivor of suicide loss, you are also invited to attend the event.
“You might find some tips or tricks to be able to help that person,” Allen says. “So many times, we don’t know what to do to help, or what to say. A lot of times, you don’t have to do or say anything other than ‘I’m here for you’, and this might be a good opportunity to hear a little bit more about people’s stories and how you might be able to help support them.”
The event will take place from 10 a.m. to noon on November 21. Pre-registration is required, but will be open until 6 p.m. the night before the event via: isosld.afsp.org/crook-county-wyoming/
If you are not able to sign up before this time but would like to participate, email [email protected] Once you have signed up, you will receive a link to sign in to the Zoom call once it begins.