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Working My Grief

By Al Vigil

When an individual dies, family and friends begin a period of grief.  The loss of a loved one through suicide is a swift and devastating experience for the survivor because there is no preparation for acceptance of the death.  Guilt feelings are intensified by the "if only's" and frustration is sharply felt due to the unanswered
questions of "why"?

Often, people who have lost someone by suicide are comforted most by others who have undergone the same experience of loss.  SOS groups acknowledge the pain and the loss of life by suicide, yet offer hope and understanding necessary for the healing process to occur.  Self-help encourages the ventilation of feelings which might not be shared with persons who have not lost a loved one in this manner.  Time heals all wounds is not necessarily true for survivors of suicide.  Time is necessary for healing, but time is not enough.  Shared feelings enrich and lead to growth and healing.

It’s been 26 years since Linda and I walked into our first SOS meeting.  It was in San Diego, Calif.  It was in early February, 1984.  It was a bitter/sweet moment.  We didn’t want to be there.  We needed to be there.

We found our way there through a ‘blue’ card that Mia’s doctor had given us after he heard of her suicide.  The card read,  Survivors of Suicide  —A Support Group for Survivors of A Loved One’s Suicide.  I called the name listed on the card and I spoke with Virgil.  I told him the story of our loss.  He quickly told me that he too, had lost a daughter to suicide.

We worked with the San Diego group for 15 years, healing with its power of sharing and meeting with others who traveled same or similar paths as survivors.  When we retired and moved to Albuquerque in 2005, the San Diego meetings had grown from the one a month to eight or more a month.

Then on January the 5th of 2008, Linda’s sister, Patty, took her life —the very same day of Mia’s death years earlier.

Once again, we clearly knew that the best work for our re-newed grief was to reach out for the support, the understanding compassion, and the open sharing of SOS.

Yes!  We did!  We found an SOS group working in Albuquerque.  They met twice a month, in the afternoon. After several months of afternoon meetings, we had the courage to ask permission and support, to start an evening meeting at a location in another part of the city.

With the blessings of the afternoon group, and with the site to meet at provided by our church, in March 2009 we had our first evening meeting.  Of course only a handful of people were there that first night.  This year, the months of May and June had 17 & 16 survivors in attendance.

We’re beginning to speak of a possible second evening meeting after the end of this year.
In Sharing & Healing,
-  Al Vigil