November 21st marks Survivors of
Suicide Day. In this issue, we highlight
CrisisLink's suicide survivor support groups
and other resources for those suffering the
loss of a loved one.
CrisisLink's 24/7 mental health services
guarantee immediate access to help for anyone
facing depression, in crisis, or
contemplating suicide, regardless of
socio-economic status, health insurance
coverage, or support network.
This is made possible by the support of
people like you. Please consider donating
today to ensure continued 24/7 access to
support when people need it
Spotlight on: The Tara Sirmans Survivor HOPE Program
When a suicide occurs in a community,
countless people are impacted. Family members
and loved ones can struggle for years with a
grief that is further burdened by other
complicated emotions and questions. Other
community members may also be impacted by the
traumatic loss. The
consequences of unresolved traumatic grief
can be lifelong and devastating, both
personally and professionally. Research shows
that survivors of suicide are themselves at
increased risk of suicide and, in fact, may
benefit most from one-on-one support from
other survivors in the aftermath of this
The Tara Sirmans Survivor HOPE (Help and
Outreach for Prevention and Education)
Program provides both immediate and ongoing
support and resources to individuals
throughout the Washington metropolitan area
who are impacted by suicide and other forms
of sudden and traumatic loss.
The HOPE Program comprises a variety of
programs and services that are available to
those in need of support:
LOSS Team - offers immediate
on-the-scene support and resources to
survivors of suicide and
other forms of traumatic loss.
Survivor Support Groups - for
individuals who have lost someone to suicide.
The ongoing, bi-weekly group is designed
to help survivors support each other through
their complicated grieving process. It is
co-led by a mental health clinician.
Postvention Training Workshops - workshops
for law enforcement, clergy, social service
professionals, funeral directors, mobile
crisis teams, survivors, and other community
members who work with survivors of suicide
and other sudden and traumatic loss.
To request the LOSS Team, please click
To request information on CrisisLink's
survivor support groups, please click
To request a postvention training workshop,
For more information on CrisisLink's HOPE Program, please click here.
Conversations with: A Support Group Member
One CrisisLink support group member speaks candidly about his experience with CrisisLink's bi-weekly support group
John* is the parent of a college-aged man who
died by suicide this past spring. He speaks
about how the support group has helped him
cope with his tremendous grief and how the
support group may help others facing the loss
of a loved one to suicide.
*Names have been changed to protect the
anonymity of CrisisLink's support group
How long have you been a part of CrisisLink's
I have been a part of CrisisLink's support
group for four months.
What can people expect when they join the
People who join the support group can expect
support, advice, comfort, concern, and
caring. Information about books, videos,
counselors, strategies for coping is shared
in meetings. Because the group is
facilitated by a trained therapist, it is a
very "safe" environment with healthy
boundaries and equal opportunities for
participation. There is an opportunity to
form relationships with others who share this
horrible life experience and you get support
via email, phone calls, meeting for coffee,
etc. The support group "normalizes" one's
catastrophic grief. You're all sort of
clinging to the same life raft and everybody
there "gets it."
Who should attend the support group?
I think all who have suffered the loss of a
loved one to suicide would benefit from the
group, whether that loss is recent or in the
past. The pain, though, is very raw and very
broad, so it is probably best to be in a
place where you have found some strength in
your coping, even if it's minimal. Otherwise,
it might be best to be getting one-on-one
On the other hand, you are never forced to
speak or to share, so if you find some
comfort in just sitting there silently, even
quietly weeping, you would be embraced and
accepted. You can participate when you're
What do you like most about the group?
What I like most is that people share their
stories, their feelings, their experience,
their various manners of coping and you
always learn something that helps you get
through the next minute, hour, or day. To
me, there is an aspect of "well, if they can
put one foot in front of the other, so can
I." It is also comforting to be with these
people who are kind, thoughtful, responsible,
caring....and yet they also lost someone they
love to suicide. Grief is a very solitary
journey and it helps to know others are there
on the same rocky path.
I also find that it links me with others
whose stores are specifically similar to
mine....same relationship lost, same time
frame, similar circumstances. I don't feel
as alone. We walk along side one another.
Does it help to share and talk with people
who have had a similar experience?
Yes. When you think you can't survive the
pain, or you just wish you were dead, or you
think you are surely losing your mind, it is
very, very consoling to have others tell you
you can survive (because they are surviving),
you will want to live again (one day), and
you have not lost your mind.
For more information about CrisisLink's
bi-weekly Survivor Support Group, please
contact Mary Azoy by email
or by phone at (703) 516-6771.
Tips: Surviving the Suicide of a Loved One
Frequently asked questions
Does anyone know how I feel?
Yes, more than you may realize. About 1 in 4
people know someone who has died by suicide.
Each suicide leaves behind a network of
family and others who must cope with the same
inner turmoil. You are not alone in your
Why did this happen?
This is the question that will occupy much of
your thoughts for some time. You may think
you know the answer, but chances are you're
only seeing part of the picture. The
motivations behind suicide are complex and
often cannot be explained.
After a suicide, family members and friends
often go over past circumstances, questioning
things they should or should not have done.
But hindsight is 20-20. If you had known then
what you know now, you might have done things
differently. But you didn't know, and you'll
never know if it would have changed the
outcome. Please remember-suicide is an
individual choice, and that no one is to
blame for this death.
What do I tell people?
Although it may be difficult to speak about
suicide openly, it is important for family
and friends to be told the truth. This allows
you to help each other through your grief.
You may choose to say something as brief as,
"She died by suicide and I'm not ready to
talk about it yet."
What happens during bereavement?
There are usually lots of complex feelings to
deal with following a death by
suicide-feelings that may differ from those
following other types of death.
Emotional responses may include: panic,
feelings of abandonment, shock and disbelief,
confusion, fear, humiliation, shame, guilt
and/or a sense of failure.
You may also feel deep sorrow, anger, or even
relief. There is nothing wrong. In feeling
that a burden has been lifted, especially if
the victim's emotional battles were known. Or
you may feel angry because you now have
another burden to carry. These feelings are
normal. Don't deny them, as they are part of
the healing process.
Physical reactions like nausea, numbness,
fatigue, headaches, insomnia, or loss of
appetite are also normal under the
What if this is more than I can bear?
This will probably be the most difficult
event you'll have to face. You may never get
over the death itself, but you can overcome
the grief. Your hope lies in working through
it. Don't try to do it alone. There are
people who are willing and able to help. For
the person you lost, the pain is over. Now
it's time to start healing yours.
Thank you for your support!