The pain, grief and sense of loss following the suicide of a loved one can be a lot to handle for the people they leave behind.
To help family and friends move forward, the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) is holding a special event on International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day this Saturday.
The CMHA’s V. Joy Pavelich said the event is meant to help build a sense of community among those who have lost friends and family to suicide.
“Suicide is extremely complex, so the path forward after a suicide … is very complex and very individual,” said Pavelich. “There can be a huge sense of isolation for survivors who deal with stigma and worry about sharing their story, so this is a very safe place for people to come.”
Pavelich is no stranger to this type of loss. She lost her son Eric to suicide at 20 years of age.
“We really did think Eric was doing quite well, he had struggled in the past,” she said. “But I think now looking back he was very good at hiding symptoms because he didn’t want to worry us, so he projected a very different face than what he was experiencing internally.”
She said the event will bring together people to talk about the various types of loss — the loss of a parent, sibling, spouse or friend to suicide for example.
“It gives people the opportunity to talk about their very unique griefs, so you might see three different people from the same family talking to very different loss types.”
It’s important to try to get past the stigma of suicide in order to heal, she said. One of the aims of the International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day is to open up the discussion around suicide and its effect on the families and friends of the person who died, she said.
“You’re denying yourself the opportunity for that healing that can happen once you open yourself up,” she said.
To learn more about the event on Nov. 17, visit the CMHA’s website.