The day started with an address from SOSL Board Chair, Jana Weber. She shared with us her story of losing her husband to suicide three years ago. We then held a candle lighting ceremony and poem reading led by Jenni Morel, SOSL’s Director of Development. Each person lit a candle and shared the name of their loved one lost to suicide, as well as the day they passed away, as Rascal Flatts’ song “Why” played softy in the background.
Carol LeBeau then took the stage (pictured left) and moved the audience with her story of personal struggle with depression and anxiety. Carol lost her mother to suicide, so she spoke to us as both a survivor of suicide loss, and as a person who has fought hard to live well in the face of recurring clinical depression. She shared a powerful message about eradicating stigma against mental health issues. Carol reminded us, that as the heart or lungs can be diseased , so too can the brain.
All attendees were invited to post a butterfly on our “Message of Hope” board. We provided large, colorful, paper butterflies to write a message on, then post on the board in remembrance of a loved one. We also offered a resource table on SOSL programs and materials, and had our book Beyond Surviving: A Compilation of Stories from Survivors of Suicide Loss available.
While enjoying catered lunch from O’s American Kitchen, Bonnie Bear, SOSL’s Executive Director, honored each of our facilitators, many of whom have been volunteering with SOSL for over 10-years. After lunch we all met in smaller intimate support groups led by our facilitators. These groups were comprised of people all sharing a similar loss, broken out by the loss of a child, spouse, sibling, other family member or friend, and a group just for teen-survivors. The opportunity to share with people all sharing a similar loss offers an unparalleled level of camaraderie and support, and is one of the most powerful aspects to SOSL Day.
After the support groups, we reconvened briefly to draw door prizes! This year we had three beautiful baskets of goodies created and donated by our Board Chair, as well as donated prizes from Mary-Kay, Panera Bread, and Roy’s Restaurant. The day was concluded with a few words from Bonnie. She reminded us that while suicide loss is difficult, that finding and living a “new normal” is possible. Though we will never be the same, we can move forward and live with hope once again.
Thank you to all of our attendees, we appreciate your presence and your contribution to making our day a success. Thank you also to the many of you who made additional donations at the event or during registration, and to the many people who purchased a copy of our book Beyond Surviving. We raised over $2,000 thanks to your generosity! Your support is so meaningful, and allows us to continue to serve our survivor community. We hope you found the event to be a day of healing, and that you found nuggets of wisdom that you can carry with you on your healing journey.
Special thanks to Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital for being our presenting sponsor, and to Union Bank, for helping us make SOSL Day possible. Thanks also to Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf (Claremont Mesa) for donating coffee and to Santee Chamber of Commerce for printing our program in beautiful color.