International Survivors of Suicide Day 2013.

By Marie BattagliaNovember 22, 2013

International Survivors of Suicide Day (November 23) represents different things to different people—a day of healing, hope, tragedy, pain, anger, remembrance, forgiveness, love. Yet, regardless of what the day means for us as individuals, it is also a day that connects us in community.

“Suicide survivor.” Wow, each of those words is so powerful, and the combination is so accurate. Grieving the loss of a loved one who died by suicide is not something people get through unscathed; it truly parallels survival. The pain that often accompanies the loss of a loved one to suicide is incomprehensible. It is a spider web that weaves upon itself, with no way to untangle the threads, no one to answer the questions of “Why?” and “What if?” and “If only …”

Unfortunately, like many people, I know this pain and those numerous lingering questions all too well. My maternal grandmother and uncle both died by suicide, just one year apart. I remember the pivotal moments when I first found out, the thoughts and feelings it ignited, and how desperately I tried to make it make sense. My mother, who had just lost two of her immediate family members to suicide, recalls it this way: “There are no words to express the horror and anguish that overwhelmed me, body, mind, and soul, when I became a suicide survivor. For me, it is best expressed through Munch’s ‘The Scream.’”

We are familiar with the pain that oscillates as time goes on—some days easier, others dramatically more challenging. Our loved ones’ presence, laughter, hugs, and smiles are always missed, and we still yearn for a future that cannot be. Today, these are the things we remember and reflect on.

For those who participate in this day or read this as a survivor: I am so sorry for your loss, and I am so glad you are still here. Your presence makes a difference, and I hope this day reminds you of your ability to love, the power of connection, and—most importantly—how strong you really are. Because when I think about my personal experience as a suicide survivor, I think of pain, but I also think of strength.

Today, I encourage people to tell their stories, and I remind them they are not alone. My hope is that, while I cannot make sense of their loss, I can try to help them heal. My wish is that no one else would walk through this pain, that in time, no more people would join me today as a result of our losses.

International Survivors of Suicide Day is also a time I renew my commitment to keep living and to continue helping others do the same. I have learned through my family members’ deaths that even when I feel alone, when nothing makes sense, and when I am not sure if the good days will ever come again, it does get better. For that reason, today is also symbolic of humanity’s ability to overcome adversity—an ability we all have within us, whether we realize it or not. Days like this remind us we are not alone, and there are others who can understand or relate to our experiences. I write this in hopes that, today and every day, you know this to be true. Within me, within you, is a survivor.

From my mom’s perspective, this inner strength is a result of hope: “I hold a silent but true mantra:  ‘Sometimes we are called upon to be the keeper of hope.’ Hope for a better tomorrow, hope for a friend who is in despair, hope for a client or loved one who is at risk, hope for one who is navigating the path post-suicide of someone they love. Hope that they will not stumble alone and in the dark. For all those with whom we connect, the best way we can nurture them is to listen with a heart that is open—and offer hope. Hope that sustains, hope that nourishes, hope that offers comfort and perhaps healing … So hold onto hope today, and if it is too hard for you to do, ask someone, anyone, to hold it for you.”

Together, we can make a difference in the lives of those who struggle. Together, we can take the steps to educate and increase awareness. We can show people it is OK to ask for help and try to prevent suicide from happening. Because as survivors, we have the ability to spread the message that people can do just that—they can survive.

Written in loving memory of Rose Marie Moreau and Maurice Robert Moreau.

– Marie Battaglia, TWLOHA Spring 2013 Intern, Masters of Mental Health Counseling student

– Nancy Moreau Battaglia, Private Practitioner in Ontario, Canada

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Comments (18)

  1. Anonymous


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  2. Nat

    It is very important to have a support network….Many people who can lift us up when we need it. Let us all be lights that shine for ourselves and others! Thanks TWLOHA.

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  3. Rachael Joesbury

    I am still here today because losing a dear friend to suicide has shown me first hand, the pain and havoc I too would have caused. I miss him so much but his suicide taught me to live and love. Losing him taught me to fight my depression. It is a long painful journey to be a survivor. Knowing now that he felt so lonely has made me a better friend today, as I will not let my loved ones feel as desperate as he must have. Miss you everyday Peter, sorry you are gone xx

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    1. AJ

      I understand how you feel. For a long time I wondered why I didnt succeed. I feel like no matter what my life has been thrown challenges and heartache one after another multiples at one time. I understand the pain of loss and at the same time I get so angry. Don’t leave me alone to deal with this world on my own. I don’t want to deal with it eather! And I see the pain of his family, I watch his sister fumble deeper into alcoholism coating it with Xanax. You pay attention to the details and you know how hurt you are and you know how people would be affected by your loss. You can’t do that to them. You realize as you grow and gain new responsibilities that those challenges thrown at you are like a gift. A blessing because now you know how to handle situations that are more challenging. Today is the 2 year anniversary of my loss and I still think about him every day. And I will for the rest of my life.

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  4. Drew

    It’s easy to forget about the love of my friends and family. I need to devote some time each day just to remind myself of that love and realize that what I’m feeling will get better. Thank you for these words of encouragement!

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  5. Overcomer

    It’s hard to loose someone so dear to you like that. I’m sorry you all. I’ve lost a friend. I know it’s sad. God will restore though.

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  6. Roland Behm

    Families tell each other stories. These stories are used to share experiences (both the best and the worst of lived experience), to put these experiences into a shared context, to pass along important messages, and to define the family’s past, present, and future. Isak Dinesen, author of Out of Africa and Babette’s Feast, once said that “all sorrows can be born if you put them in a story or tell a story about them.”

    Those who do not have power over the story that dominates their lives, the power to retell it, rethink it, deconstruct it, joke about it, and change it as times change, truly are powerless, because they cannot think new thoughts. The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love and to be greater than our suffering. Stories can conquer fear; they can make the heart larger.

    Each person is a story based on a collection of relationships – parent and child, husband and wife, grandparent and grandchild, brother and sister, colleague and friend. Your love one’s story does not end with his death; it lives on – in you, in your children, in your grandchildren, in all of your friends and loved ones, and in their relationships with you and with each other. Your loved one’s story continues and it is incumbent upon us to continue to tell it well.

    As to your story? It now opens up to new and possibly unanticipated opportunities. It may not be what you planned and it may be a bit frightening, but as Joseph Campbell said, “We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”

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  7. Nikkole

    This is truly touching. I’ve lost many due to suicide, some of them very close friends and family. Because of it, I’ve struggled for years to heal from the pain. Struggled so much that it nearly drove myself to suicide. Luckily though, I am alive today because of TWLOHA and the amazing things that all of you do. I know now that hope is very real and recovery is possible. My heart, hope, love and prayers go out to all those who have struggled with suicide and self harm. Just know that you are dearly loved and you are never alone. Stay strong, chin up. You’re beautiful and tomorrow is a new day.

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  8. SKN

    I usually do not post on anything but I keep finding myself drawn to share my story and hope that it helps just one person. In 2006 I lost my (old man) boyfriend of 3 1/2 years. I would love to say it was a tragic accident but it was not he chose to leave to soon. He left myself, my 2 older children and our daughter behind it devastated our lives. How was I supposed to be. What was supposed to be. I knew I had to care for my babies but how. I don’t want to drag my story out so I will just say that I had to listen for God and let him guide me. Because now I do have life again I do have love again and although I still miss him I am able to live my life not just stand still. There is life after loss and it isn’t your fault.

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  9. Liv

    Thank you for that. You are an incredible person and I know that you are going to do the most amazing things in life. There is a reason why you have so much strength to continue on this far and one day I know you will find it. x

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  10. Ann

    I knew you were sad but I could not fix it. I think of you every day. I loved you before you left and I love you still.

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  11. Anonymous

    Amazing that November 23 is the date. I lost my third brother which was my twin to suicide on that date.

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  12. clarissa

    With suicide taking my paternal grandmother,paternal grandfather,2 aunts and my dad it almost seemed its what i was supposed to do as well. After taking 27 of my celexa as a teenager and seeing the horror on my aunts face and knowing how much i scared them it made me rethink everything! i know the pain i have felt from not having anyone left on my dads side and i know now how much i am loved. do i still think about taking the easy way out.. sure from time to time. but now that i have 2 beautiful children i couldnt imagine leaving them. They are my world and my reason for living. one day they will know that they saved their moms life.. in more ways than one!

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  13. Lauren

    I am a suicide survivor. Not many people know this but I attempted to take my own life twice. Some may think that it wasn’t as bad as it really was. I’ve spent three years of my life self-harming and was in a horrible relationship with someone who is suicidal , self-harms, and does drugs. Me dating him put me into a deeper depression. One of the only reasons I’m a survivor and not a victim , is because of you guys here at TWLOHA. I thank you for helping me find my way and my hope.

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  14. Sarah Charles

    I attempted suicide 3 times when I was 13. I struggled with self harm for 4 years.
    Im almost sixteen now, and Im doing alot better. Although I still get sad, and my arms are literally sleeves in scars, I learned to cope.
    Stay strong lovelies. <3

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  15. Jenna Jacofsky

    Hi my name is Jenna Jacofsky. I’m in 7th grade and I live in Ohio. I’ve attempted suicide 5 times due to bullying, the first time I tried I was 10 years old. Since then
    My life has never been the same. The bullying got bad last year, to the point I started cutting myself. And I just want to say
    you’re loved. And you have so much fight left in you. Don’t give up

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  16. Faith

    Last year, in December, I attempted to take my own life. Bullying, was the biggest problem, I’m 15 and I’ve been bullied ever since I can remember, it was always either my weight, my height, or just anything people saw wrong with me, they started lies, and they spread like wild fire. Self-injury, had been a problem, since I was eleven. But I’m close to a year clean, I relapsed, once after my suicide attempt, but I got myself back on a good track, and haven’t relapsed since.
    While I was laying in the hospital bed, All I could think about was “What if I had succeeded? What about the loved ones I would have left behind? Would they go down the same path as I have? Would they be able to continue on?” That’s all I could possibly think of. I’m so grateful, that I didn’t… My parents got me out of my public school, and worked their asses off to get me into home bound, where I would meet one on one with a teacher, at home, no other students, just the teacher and I.
    Although, it took some time, and a lot of work, they were able to get me into that program..
    My life goal, is to help the ones in need of it. The ones who feel alone, the ones who aren’t happy with themselves. When I am able to, I’m going to join the TWLOHA organization. I want to make an impact on others’ lives. I want to make a change.
    So just remember, no matter who you are, you’re meant to be here, no matter what you’ve done in your past, you can learn and grow from it. You’re amazing in some way, beautiful inside and out, no matter who you are, you deserve a chance. Don’t let what people say bring you down. You’re so much better then them, in every aspect. You always have someone who cares, no matter who they are, even if you don’t personally know them, SOMEONE CARES. I’m that someone, I’ve always cared, I always will.
    You ARE loved. <3

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  17. Brooke

    I’ve been cutting for a long time and recently people started noticing. At school, people hate me. I have very few friends and I literally dread being there. But actually I hate being home more than school. I have so many problems, it’s unreal. My self esteem and happiness has suffered greatly because of high school and my anxiety is off the charts. One of my friends noticed my cuts on my arms when I was grabbing my bag because my sleeves went up a little bit. She was so sad, I felt like a terrible person because I could tell I had hurt her. I promised her that I would try my hardest to stop cutting no matter what. She told me to look up twloha on YouTube. I did, and what I saw completely changed my life. I’m not going to say I’m totally better because that would be a lie. But I am recovering. Thank you so much. Stay strong guys. <3

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