I am. I have been a survivor since July 29, 2002, when I lost my 30-year-old brother, Tim, to suicide.
Many of you know about Tim—my family’s only blond, blue-eyed child, a former high school and college football stand-out—a son, a grandson, a brother, a husband, a father, an uncle, and a friend. I miss him every single day of my life.
I am the survivor of another loss, as well. October 17, 2013, I lost my former student, Senior Airman Cody Hooks, to suicide. Like Tim, Cody had a smile that spread across his face and a personality that drew people to him. Like Tim, Cody hid his suffering.
Saturday, November 18, International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day Rio Grande Valley will take place at the McAllen Public Library, 4001 N. 23rd Street, from 9:45 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. Although last year was the first time the event was held in the Rio Grande Valley, it began in 1999 after Sen. Harry Reid, who lost his father to suicide in 1972, introduced a resolution to the U.S. Congress. Originally, the event was named National Survivors for Prevention of Suicide Day; later, other countries followed suit, and the name was eventually changed to International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day. The event is held each year the Saturday before Thanksgiving.
International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day is a day where those who have lost a parent, a son, a daughter, a brother, a sister, an aunt, an uncle, a niece, a nephew, a cousin, a friend, a student, or another loved one to suicide come together to learn how to cope, to learn how to hope, to meet other survivors, and to discover peace. For many, it brings the realization, for the first time, that they are not alone.
The Rio Grande Valley event is under the direction of Missy Garcia Moreno. Missy lost her brother, Father Ricardo Garcia, a beloved priest in Brownsville, to suicide in February of 2011. Missy’s friend, Melissa Hinojosa-Zamora, asked Missy to chair the event. Melissa brought the Out of the Darkness Community Walk to the Rio Grande Valley and was instrumental in the formation of the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention South Texas chapter. She is also a survivor, having lost her father to suicide.
Missy enlisted the help of a group of dedicated volunteers to organize last year’s event. That same group, along with a few additional volunteers, has been working on this year’s program, which includes the screening of The Journey: A Story of Healing and Hope, a documentary produced by AFSP that traces the grief and healing journey of a diverse group of suicide loss survivors. AFSP describes the documentary like this: The film shows how those left behind navigate the aftermath of their loved one’s suicide to find meaning and even joy and takes an intimate look at how their healing journey evolves over time. More information on this year’s schedule will be released soon.
The event is limited to 80 people, and pre-registration is required. You can register now at afsp.org/survivor_day/mcallen-texas. This year, teens (13-17 years old) are welcome if accompanied by an adult, and there will be sessions geared specifically to them.
For more information about International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day Rio Grande Valley, contact Missy at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 956-821-6539. You can find the event page (2nd Annual International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day) on Facebook.
I am a survivor. At the International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day, I have the opportunity to share Tim and Cody with others who understand.
Chris Ardis retired in May of 2013 following a 29-year teaching career. She now helps companies with business communications and social media and works as a sales coordinator for Tony Roma's and Macaroni Grill. Chris can be reached at email@example.com. (Photo by Sarina Manahan)