This month marks a full decade that Bonnie Bear has served Survivors of Suicide Loss as our Executive Director. Many of you know Bonnie personally, or have seen her deliver a heartfelt speech on coping with suicide loss or suicide prevention – but what you may not know, is that Bonnie has been leading this organization for 10 years, as a volunteer.
Bonnie has devoted this decade to SOSL because of her compassion, her steadfast commitment to help survivors, and to honor her late husband Gordon, who died by suicide on August 29th, 2002.
SOSL has grown exponentially over the past 10-years, because of Bonnie’s dedication and vision. Many of the services and events we currently offer exist because Bonnie made them happen.
On November 9, 2014 we are holding our, in conjunction with San Diego’s Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Program®. Bonnie currently serves as Co-Chair of the Walk and has since the 2nd Annual Save A Life Walk in 2007.
The Walk is a beautiful event and a place for survivors to come together, honor their loved ones, and to see that we do not walk this grief journey alone. Theis the largest fundraiser of the year, and provides SOSL with almost half of its annual operating budget!
In April 2015, SOSL will host its 8th Annual San Diego SOSL Day. This is a half-day event that includes a powerful candle lighting ceremony, a keynote speaker or speaker panel, question & answer portion, catered lunch, and then break out support groups according to type of loss (e.g. loss of child, parent, sibling, friend).
San Diego SOSL Day was created by Bonnie, and continues to be planned and executed by Bonnie and her SOSL team of volunteers, staff, and Board of Directors each year.
This organization began in 1981 with one support group which quickly grew to two. Currently we offer 10 support groups every month lead by facilitators volunteering their time to SOSL. Each time a new group location opens, or a new facilitator is trained, it is Bonnie making that happen.
In addition to the “drop in” groups, SOSL offers an 8-week Closed Group specifically designed for survivors who are seeking more structured grief work, and want to learn how to create something positive out of their grief. This group and the curriculum was created by Bonnie, and is often co-facilitated by her as well.
All of us here at SOSL: Volunteers, Board members, and staff could go on and on about the amazing things Bonnie Bear has done for all of us over these past 10 years.
We’d like to share a tribute to Bonnie; these words were read to her at her 75th Birthday Party by Connie Kennemer, a mother who survived the suicide loss of her son, a dedicated SOSL facilitator, and a dear friend of Bonnie’s:
Rex [my husband] and I help facilitate the support group we’ve attended for several years. We are in an information pool and hear of new losses in the city and in the support groups. Nine times out of 10, Bonnie has already talked to and comforted the survivors. She doesn’t send an assistant or leave a voicemail. She shows up. Today I was reading in the Psalms (the songs of the Bible—and I love songs). Psalm 126:5,6 caught my attention on this day of celebration. “Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy. She who continually goes forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing her sheaves with her.”
This is what Bonnie has done since saying goodbye to Gordon. She has allowed her tears to be fruitful as she comes alongside fellow travelers like Rex and me. She has sown her tears and produced a harvest so large the city can’t hold it. We are your fruit, Bonnie. We toast a “life well-lived.”
SOSL would not be the strong organization it is today without you, Bonnie –
thank you for your many years of service, and your continuing dedication to SOSL!