I lost my youngest brother, Jerry, at age 30, to suicide 23 years ago. He had struggled valiantly with varying degrees of success, for six years after his first episode of bipolar mania and hospitalization. Despite our awareness of his challenges, his death shocked all who knew him. He was a good man, kind, generous, wise for his years, and a gifted artist with a compassionate heart. He chose to leave us behind, not out of anger, hatred or selfishness, but from a deep-seated agony that only he could imagine.
The circumstances may differ, but families throughout Vermont who have lost a loved one to suicide know the pain that comes from the tragedy unique to them. As with any loss, grief can take a stran-gle hold in the survivors. With suicide however, the challenges to recovery are many, and can be complicated by stigma, secrecy, fear, guilt, and depression, to mention but a few.
Evidence shows that we can help in the healing process with education and support. Meeting with others who have gone through, or are going through a loss from suicide, has enabled countless numbers of survivors across the country to transition through the grieving process in a healthy manner. We will never be the same, may never understand all the complexities involved behind the decision to take one’s live, and yet we can take solace in knowing that we are not alone. Sharing with others who have experienced a similar fate, who are ready to listen, read to give support in a nonjudgemental, confi-dential environment, has made a big difference in being able to cope with this type of loss.
The American Foundation of Suicide Prevention (www.afsp.org) sponsors a number of support groups across Vermont. The Central Vermont Survivors of Suicide Loss group has recently been reacti-vated. It meets for 90 minuyes at the Central Vermont Medical Center, downstairs in conference room #1, on the third Tuesday of the month at 6pm. Our next meeting is on March 18th. All survivors of suicide loss are welcome to come, listen and share. Folks seeking further info may call me, Bill Kelly, at 223-0924.