Survivors of suicide loss search for hope, healing

Contact Reporterhbridges@vagazette.com

The silence surrounding suicide is sometimes deafening.

At International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day in Williamsburg, organizer Suzanne Vogel said it's important to say the names of loved ones lost to suicide.

"People are afraid to speak the names sometimes," said Vogel, who lost her brother Joe in 2014. "It's harder to find healing around your family members and your community and your friends, because there's such a stigma that people don't want to talk about it. They don't want to say his name."

But there's healing in the speaking, and that's something the local Survivors of Suicide Loss support group hopes to share, both through monthly meetings and the annual International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day on Nov. 19.

"This day is to show that there's healing in community," Vogel said. "Come and tell your story, talk about your loved one that you lost. Because that is so healing, because we want to hear."

Suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in Virginia, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention—more than three times as many people die by suicide than homicide.

Vogel estimated around 40 people attended the 2015 International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day in Williamsburg. The hope, always, is to reach more.

"That's why this day is important, because I know there's so many people out there who are feeling alone," Vogel said.

Vogel experienced much of that isolation, until she found Charlotte Moyler and the local Survivors of Suicide Loss support group. Moyler, who lost her teenage daughter Maggie five years ago, started the support group one year later with help from Hospice House and Support Care of Williamsburg.

Working through the grief has been immensely hard, Moyler said, but it is possible. As the support group hopes to show, healing lies in community.

"I'm a little bit of a Pollyanna, because I always search for the beauty in everything," Moyler said, "but I swear to you, beauty can be found."

International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day, recognized around the world, includes a screening of "Life Journeys: Reclaiming Life after Loss," a documentary produced by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Vogel said the film follows families in different situations, all touched by suicide, as they share their stories. The screening will be followed by a time of small group discussion, as well as a large group activity.

"It's a very nonthreatening environment," Vogel said. "(If) they want to come and sit in the back, they can. They want to come and stand and shout, they can."

Bridges can be reached by phone at 757-345-2342.

International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day

When: 10 a.m.-12 p.m., Nov. 19

Where: Riverside Doctors' Hospital, 1500 Commonwealth Ave.

For more information on the event, contact Suzanne Vogel at suemvogel@gmail.com. Survivors of Suicide Loss support group meets 7-8:30 p.m. the first Thursday of every month at Hospice House, 4445 Powhatan Parkway. For more information, contact Charlotte Moyler at williamsburgsurvivors@gmail.com or 757-903-1641.

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