Thank you to everyone who attended SOSL Day on April 11, 2015! We want to extend a warm thank you to our event sponsors, donors, and all of our dedicated volunteers who made this event possible!
The day started with an address from a longstanding SOSL volunteer, former Executive Director and Board Member, Mike Kurtz. He shared with us his story of losing his teenage son to suicide, and reminded all of us the powerful ways in which we can give back to other survivors, to others who have walked a similar path.
We then held a candle lighting ceremony and poem reading led by Linda Hunt, SOSL Board Member. 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 softly in the background.
Diana Waugh then took the stage and moved the audience with her honest story of loss and personal struggles to regain mental health. Diana lost her mother, father, and grandfather to suicide. She spoke to us as a three-time survivor of suicide loss, and as a person who experienced mental illness, and fought to regain a life with hope and mental wellness.
After Diana’s Keynote Address, we held a Question/Answer panel, moderated by Mike Kurtz, with sitting panelists: Diana Waugh, Jana Bradley (SOSL Board President), Jenni Morel (SOSL Director of Development), and Rex Kennemer (SOSL Facilitator). The panel addressed feelings of being alone or isolated after loss, and how connecting with the survivor community helps to ease those feelings. They also answered thought-provoking questions from the audience on managing grief, moving forward, and even answered the question “What do you do for FUN?” which helped lighten the mood, and bring some joy to the event.
All attendees were invited to post a butterfly on our “Message of Hope” wall. 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. We also offered information on Sharp Hospice Care Memory Bears, for more information visit here.
After enjoying catered lunch from O’s American Kitchen, 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, friend, or colleague. The opportunity to share with people who have lost the same relationship 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 and come together for a Closing Ceremony new to SOSL Day this year. Each person was invited to symbolically take something with them, and to leave something behind.
To leave something behind, we did a Paper Butterfly Release:
“While you will carry your lost loved one forever in your heart, there may be certain aspects of your grief you may be ready to release. For some this may be guilt or shame, or perhaps the “what ifs” or the “I should haves,” which can serve as torment for survivors. Others may be ready to surrender their resistance to moving forward – not to move on – but to move forward, and be free to live with hope and peace once again.”
To take something with us, a memento of the day, we created Stones of Strength:
“It is also important to embrace and honor the good things. Please select a stone and write something you want to keep, to remember, to honor.
You may write a single word such as hope, healing, gratitude, faith, or Love. You may be moved to write a few words, a memory, or symbols. Whatever is in your heart today that you want to keep — put it on the stone, and take that home with you today.
The stone will serve as a reminder of what we have shared together on this special day, and a reminder of the Love we forever carry in our hearts.
Along with the Stones of Hope, we hope that all of the attendees will carry the faith that though we will never be the same, we can move forward and live with hope once again.
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 Infrastructure Engineering Corporation for printing our program in beautiful color.