This week is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Week, a week devoted to building awareness about the ways suicide impacts not just the life of the one who’s gone but also the many grieving lives left behind.
Barb, a mom and stepmom who lost her daughter to suicide in 2005, knows this all too well:
I started attending REBUILD, Willow’s grief ministry for those experiencing the death of a loved one or going through a divorce, because of my sister Lin, who died in 1999. Lin passed away in a really tragic way. Right away, someone from Willow told me about REBUILD. I was told I would be assigned a seat at a table next to people experiencing similar losses. My table was led by Bonnie, who had lost her daughter to suicide. I thought it was kinda weird that they put us at the same table since our losses weren’t really the same, but it was still a great table, and I learned a lot.
Fast forward to 2005, and my daughter, Laurie, was almost 21. She was a bright, fun, spectacular kid. She was a small group leader at Student Impact. She was on fire for God. She had just gotten engaged. We thought everything was great. She really was just the last person you would think would take her own life. The whole thing was terrible.
It was early in the morning when the officer left. That's when we found out for sure that it was a suicide. The first person I thought of was Bonnie. I knew somebody who had lost a daughter to suicide. How wonderful of God to have done that for me. While I was still full of shock and disbelief, I was able to get together with Bonnie. She invited me into REBUILD again, along with my husband and our kids. Looking back, I needed the grounding of being with other parents who had lost their children because I always thought that was the most horrendous thing that could ever happen to a person. And it happened. And there you are, in the middle of it—grabbing a breath where you can, which didn’t always come easily.
I became an advocate against suicide. A year and a half after Laurie died, I got asked to consider being a leader at REBUILD. I thought maybe that would be a little piece of the purpose of why I was there. Grief support helped so much. You can’t even imagine. Leading has continued my healing. It sometimes opens up something new in my own heart.
Grief has taught me that I’m much stronger than I thought. But that strength came from God. I knew I was capable of things, but I never realized you can get through something tragic and have a reason to still go on. God has continued to show up for me at just the right time. We all need to talk it through, and that’s what REBUILD has provided. I’m still in contact with people from all the groups I’ve led since 2007. I’ve been part of almost every ministry at Willow, and REBUILD is truly one of the best ministries our church has.
Have you experienced loss? Do you or someone you know who struggles with suicidal thoughts? You aren’t alone.
The next session of REBUILD begins September 16. Learn more here.
Find more resources here for additional mental health care.
If you currently have a desire to harm yourself or are feeling suicidal, reach out for help immediately. Call 911, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (1-800-273-8255), text "HOME" to the Crisis Text Line (741741), or go to the nearest emergency room to receive care.