A project to celebrate the lives of loved ones lost
The Spectator is organizing a photography project for families who have had a member die by suicide
It is both sad and hopeful that so many of you want to share your stories of loved ones who have died by suicide.
I was deeply touched by the dozens of readers who reached out to me after the long story I wrote recently about Nicole Patenaude, 20, who jumped off a Hwy. 403 overpass and died.
Her family’s fierce pronouncement
that there is no shame in mental illness or suicide inspired many to speak up.
One woman, whose sister died by suicide, wrote to say: “We have tried as a family to keep it out of the media. But at this time, we now feel it is so very important to tell my sister’s story.”
Another reader, who recently lost a friend, said: “Nicole’s story
and the love, strength and courage of her family will resonate with many people. I only hope it creates some compassion in those who need it.”
“Thank you for writing this to put light on the situation,” wrote a woman who lost both parents to suicide. “I so appreciate Nicole’s family’s candour and bravery at sharing this story. I know how hard
that can be more than most.”
Responses like these have led to a special Hamilton Spectator photo project that offers readers a way to share those stories and continue the conversation. Called Left Behind, it will be a collection of portraits of people affected by suicide.
The portraits will be shot by my colleague, photojournalist Gary Yokoyama. He is setting up a studio in The Spec’s auditorium and we are inviting anyone who has lost someone to suicide to sit for a portrait this week. I will be there too. You need to bring a photo of the person you have lost (the bigger, the better, so it will be visible in the portrait) and an item that belonged to that person. Please also bring a 50word caption which should include the name of the person, their age and an explanation of the significance of the item you have chosen.
One reader plans to bring a pair of dancing shoes her sister bought, but never had a chance to wear.
The photos, which will be published in The Spectator, are intended to celebrate lives more than deaths.
While the volume of stories that have been shared with me and the pain they will always cause makes me sad, the very fact that so many of you are eager to talk about it in an effort to break down the stigma, gives me great hope.
Susan Clairmont’s commentary appears regularly in The Spectator. firstname.lastname@example.org 905-526-3539 | @susanclairmont