Helping to understand and heal
For those left behind after a loved one takes their own life, the road to recover y can be a long and tangled one, but Sue Maskaleris says there is great strength in community.
And if you’re occasionally inclined to go a little out of your way for a good cause, this would be the time. The Southern Maryland Out of the Darkness Walk (of which Maskaleris is co-chair) and the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention’s Mar yland chapter (of which she is a board member) will be hosting their second Southern Maryland Survivors of Suicide Loss Day from 1 to 4 p.m. tomorrow, Saturday, Nov. 19, at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Brandywine.
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.
It’s part of a national movement, and tomorrow’s event is open to all from Southern Maryland.
“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: Reclaiming Life After Loss.”
The timing of the event is intentional. Nov. 19 is International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day. In 1999, Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who lost his father to suicide in 1972, introduced a resolution declaring the Saturday before Thanksgiving as Suicide Loss Day.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in 2014, the most recent year for which it has data, suicide was the second leading cause of death in the United States for those ages 10 to 34, and the 10th leading cause of death for all age groups, with 42,773 reported suicides in 2014.
We probably know someone in our own family or workplace who has wrestled with suicidal thoughts or who has even attempted to end their life, and we wouldn’t necessarily see the warning signs. With so many tragic events happening around the world, the discussion about mental illness has come to the forefront in recent years. But it still doesn’t receive the attention, funding and understanding as other maladies.
People who are struggling with depression can’t simply “get over” whatev- er is bothering them.
To further complicate things, symptoms of depression aren’t often alike. Those of us who do not live with depression often find it difficult to relate with those who do suffer daily.
While we don’t need to understand the why, we should empathize and offer support.
Maskaleris said she hopes the event will make it easier for survivors to find healing on their journey. It’s a journey she’s been on since she lost her father to suicide in 1971. “Even after 45 years, the healing journey changes you in ways you wouldn’t expect,” she said. “I’ve now come to the conclusion that there’s nothing to forgive. I look at it [like] dying from cancer. You don’t forgive someone for dying from cancer. There’s nothing to forgive.”
Saturday’s event also aims to provide survivors with a safe place to talk about and share their grief with others who will understand. “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,” Maskaleris said.
If you’d like to help somehow but can’t participate in tomorrow’s event in person, get in touch with Maskaleris at email@example.com. Awareness and dialogue are critical components in helping stop this tragic, permanent solution to a temporary problem.