When my husband ended his life in 2007, it seemed like he ended mine, too. I felt so alone. Then I found the Alliance of Hope for Suicide Loss Survivors (AOH) and connected with other people like me, people in pain offering hope to each other. Hope was all we had, but it was what we needed.
After participating in the community forum for several years, I became a forum moderator. I wanted to give back. Every day now, I hand out hope to people who are hurting because I remember that pain. And I see how strong this Alliance has made me now.
Someone once said that the moderators “put the hope in the Alliance of Hope.” We work hard to maintain a healing culture where survivors feel heard. We open our hearts to strangers, and they become family. Sometimes we feel overwhelmed. We miss our loved ones, too.
There are often rewards. Can you imagine reading a post by a survivor in searing pain and then, a few days later, reading words of encouragement from that same survivor to another new survivor?
The wounds survivors carry are invisible. The world demands that we go back to work when our hearts are breaking, so we “mask” our grief. Children must be cared for; chores must be done. If others saw wounds this paralyzing on our bodies, they would take us – immediately – to an intensive care unit.
We encourage each other to take care of ourselves. Even the basics like eating, drinking water, and resting are the last things on our minds at a time when our bodies and our hearts need to be nourished the most. The forums are our intensive care.
The aftermath of suicide leaves chaotic circumstances and strife. Insurance companies may not pay claims when death is self-inflicted. Family income may be halved or gone altogether. Jobs and homes can be lost. Mortgages that two wage earners could handle become too much for one. Families react in different ways that are not always supportive of each other. Some of us come home to an empty house, but we can turn on our computers and come home to each other. It helps to tell someone.
As a Forum Moderator, I am aware of all these things. And so are the compassionate people who work alongside me. People from all over the world read the posts on our forums. They come from every background, culture, and economic and social situation. They represent all age groups and belief systems. Together we make the AOH forums a safe place of healing.
That can mean editing a member’s post and sending a private message to tell him or her, gently, why. When I read posts, I often send replies for hours because, well, who do you leave out? The mom who suddenly found out the son she loves killed himself? The young person whose friends don’t understand why she can’t just “get over” her mother’s death? The man who lost his only sibling? The fiancé whose future is ended before it’s begun? The widow my age who writes my own story when she tells of her tragedy?
The rest of the world doesn’t know how many nights we suffer. They don’t see the tears we hide. They are not aware that we were once like them or that they might one day be one of us. If that happens, I pray the Alliance will still be here. Hope is a fragile commodity but, without it, where would any of us be?
My children and I have grown stronger and gone beyond just surviving. We have a new life now, one that would have been impossible without the Alliance of Hope for Suicide Loss Survivors. I have learned how to express compassion, to ease pain, and to be there for others.
Sounds like I’m perfect. No. I am just a woman who has lost someone very dear to suicide. I am a fellow survivor like you. Becoming a forum moderator changed my life and continues to change my life every day. I am humbled by the words of others who offer me an invitation into their souls and the deepest part of their suffering. I mourn with them and rejoice in their smallest victories. They reach out to me, in return. This is the way human beings should help each other.