by Allison Sampite
On a Saturday afternoon inside The Rock church in Point Loma, dozens arrived to grieve the loss of their loved ones. The gathering was a memorial of sorts, created to support survivors whose spouses, children, friends, and others died by suicide.
The event was the 11th annual SOSL Day put on by Survivors of Suicide Loss. This year the theme was “Planting Seeds of Hope” and the event focused on hope in continuing your journey.
During the event, dozens of candles were lit in the memory of others. I lit a candle for my friend Sylvia, who took her life on November 22, 2016. Following the candle lighting ceremony, some participants laughed while others wiped tears from their eyes as they shared personal stories of their loved ones.
“Remembering funny things and special moments is important and keeps them alive in our minds,” said Mike Kurtz, the emcee of the event. Mike lost his son. He said it took him a while to not feel guilty about being happy. “It’s OK to laugh and have fun,” Mike said.
During another activity, survivors painted a mini planter then filled it with soil, seeds and some water. The hope is that the love and care you give to the plant helps you heal.
Also at the event, numerous resources were available. These included helpful information such as suggestions for coping as a family, including how to celebrate their loved ones or cope with the loss during significant life events such as birthday, anniversaries and holidays.
The event also highlights a question and answer session with panelists at different stages of their grief and loss. Anger and guilt are the two most common emotions survivors experience after a loss.
Two of the panelists talked about the delayed processing of their loved one’s death for years. Some others discussed their struggle with alcoholism as a way to cope with their losses.
Angie, whose father killed himself, ultimately found solace in the Bible. “For me, feeling like nobody understands where I am is the hardest part,” she said.
Ultimately, all of them said they found healing in the support from others going through the same experience and talking about their loss. Each of them attend an SOSL group. Mike said that joining a support group was an amazing experience.
“It answers a lot of questions-why I would cry at the drop of a hat, for example. It turns out that was a normal part of the grieving process. It’s also a very real reminder that you are not in this alone.”
Rosza, whose son died, shared a simple mantra that she said helps her daily: I am sorry. I forgive you. I love you. Thank you.
The panelists also discussed the importance of remembering your loved one with photos, T-shirts, by participating in walks, and talking about the loss and memories.
Mike said following his son’s death, he immersed himself in volunteer work for SOSL. “It’s been a good way for me to move forward.”
Following the panel, everyone was separated into groups based on their types of loss and shared their personal stories.
The resounding message from the survivors is that while the journey is difficult, it is worth living. Your heart will beat again. There is hope after a suicide.
SOSL groups meet across the county from the South Bay to the North County and many places in between.
SOSL wants to thank its sponsors for SOSL Day – Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital and Infrastructure Engineering. Their generous support makes this event possible and is very appreciated.