Second Annual Survivors of Suicide Loss event set for Nov. 19 in Brandywine
Group aims to bring healing, community to those dealing with loss of loved one
For those left behind after a loved one takes their own life, the road to recovery can be a long and tangled one — but Sue Maskaleris, co-chairwoman of the Southern Maryland Out of the Darkness Walk, said there is strength in community.
The Southern Maryland Out of the Darkness Walk and the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention, Maryland Chapter, of which Maskaleris is a board member, will be hosting the Second Annual Southern Maryland Survivors of Suicide Loss Day from 1-4 p.m. Nov. 19 at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 13500 Baden Westwood Road in Brandywine.
“The whole point of Survivors Day is to get our survivors together to come and share, and sometimes just being in the same room as other survivors helps,” Maskaleris said.
The event will feature the 30-minute AFSP film, “Life Journeys: Reclaim- ing Life After Loss.”
“It’s going to be from the perspective of survivors who are several years out from their loss, and how they have managed it,” Maskaleris said.
Maskaleris said she hopes the event will make it easier for survivors to find healing on their jour- ney. It’s a journey Mas- kaleris has been on since she lost her father to sui- cide in 1971.
“Even after 45 years, the healing journey changes you in ways you wouldn’t expect,” Maskeleris said.
Maskaleris said it took her decades to forgive her father for taking his own life when she was 14.
“I’ve now come to the conclusion that there’s nothing to forgive,” Maskaleris said. “I look at it [like] from dying from cancer. You don’t forgive someone for dying from cancer, there’s nothing to forgive.”
Maskaleris said her own experiences with depres- sion helped her to better understand mental illness that leads to suicide.
“It’s like tunnel vision; you lose the coping skills to see your way out of it,” Maskaleris said. “I could see where someone could get into that frame of mind.”
Nov. 19 is International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day. In 1999, U.S. Sen. Harry Reid (D) of Nevada, who lost his father to suicide in 1972, introduced a resolution declar- ing the Saturday before Thanksgiving as Suicide Loss Day.
The Centers for Dis- ease Control and Preven- tion reports that in 2014, the most recent year for which it has data, suicide was the second leading cause of death in the U.S. for those ages 10 to 34, and the 10th leading cause of death for all age groups, with 42,773 reported suicides in 2014.
Makaleris said one of the goals of the event is to provide survivors a safe place to talk about and share their grief with others who will understand.
“A lot of times, for people who are loss survivors, there’s such a stigma attached [to suicide] that it becomes very difficult for them to speak about their loved ones,” Maskaleris said. “It helps sometimes to hear someone say that they didn’t leave you, that they weren’t weak, that they weren’t selfish, all these things that people who don’t understand throw out, it doesn’t help.”
Co-organizer John Staples, project manager for War on Stress, a project of the nonprofit United Charitable, will also be leading a session on managing stress.
“Taking care of loss survivors is important,” Maskaleris said. “The risk for suicide is higher in survivors, so we want to take care of our survivors, too.”