Zero Suicides campaign: Survivors support each other

The suicide survivor support group sits in a circle as each one has the opportunity to speak about their grieving. (KBAK/KBFX photo)

When we hear the phrase "suicide survivors" we immediately think of a person who is still alive after trying to kill themselves, and yes those people are suicide survivors. However, they are not the only suicide survivors.

Fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, and friends who are left to wonder why their loved one killed themselves are also suicide survivors.

In a Kern Behavioral Health and Recovery Services building off F Street these survivors meet.

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On the first and third Tuesday of each month they fill the same room and sit in a circle as one by one they share how they are coping with their loss.

Some people have been coming to this support group for 10 years. For others, it's their first time.

Regardless of how long they've been coming everyone in the room is equally welcomed because they are all bound by the common thread of someone they love dying by suicide.

"This group is like a second family," said David Carr who has been coming to the group since his son, Christopher, died. "I've said it in group before, if it weren't for this group I probably wouldn't have made it through this ordeal."

Carr found his son after Christopher killed himself. While it's been a long time and Carr has frequently attended the meetings to grieve the pain of losing his first child is still present.

"That was my first time becoming a dad and then to find him the way I did, I could just hear my world shatter in that moment," said Carr.

Also in the group is Estella Vega. Her son Jacob killed himself 10 years ago. He was 19-years-old.

"In a million years I never ever expected to bury one of my kids. You always expect that you'll bury your parents or your grandparents, your elderly, but you never, never in a million years dream you'll bury your children. It's just heartbreaking," Vega said.

The heartbreak for Vega, Carr, and everyone else in the group is intense, but it doesn't compare to the pain they feel when a new family joins their group.

That's because everyone in this group has committed themselves to preventing suicide and preventing other parents from feeling their pain. So, when a new family walks in there is a sense of needing to do more.

While the goal is for the group to never get bigger, newcomers are embraced with open arms as everyone in the room knows only they understand the pain of losing a loved one to suicide.

They'll all tell you loss is one thing, but losing someone this way is tougher because there is a certain amount of guilt inflicted upon the survivors.

The feeling of thinking you could've prevented something terrible from happening can be crippling.

No one understands that as well as the people who meet on the first and third Tuesday of every month.

"When you talk about it outside of this group people seem to cut you off or change the subject, or just don't want to speak to you. I lost a lot of friendships and a lot of people out of my life," said Vega.

There is no doubt all the members of this group have lost tremendously, but they've also gained.

They gained friendships and a support system to help them through tough times. They gained insight into a growing issue in our community. They've gained the ability to look beyond a stigma and speak openly about suicide and the feelings it generates for them. They've gained a cause to dedicate themselves to in honor of their fallen loved ones.

Yes, they've all lost, but the gains they've made can benefit our entire community if we all just take a page out of their book and listen.

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