Remembering those lost to suicide

Doug Loyer Special to The Times Candles are lit during the Hope for the Holidays Candlelight Vigil.

“Hope for the Holidays Candlelight Vigil” Sunday evening in Muskingum Park brought together family and friends who have lost a loved one to suicide.

Some tears were shed, stories told and inspirational words spoken. To lose someone to suicide can make the loss especially painful and challenging. The holidays can be a painful time as they deal with feelings of grief. Through the vigil, survivors gained strength and hope.

The Hope for the Holidays Candlelight Vigil gives surviving family and friends an opportunity to be with others who have had similar experiences and feelings and gives them all a chance to share stories of their loved ones and light a candle in their memory. This shared vigil experience helps with the healing and gives surviving family members and friends much needed support and comfort.

Bob Sinnett, president of the Suicide Awareness Alliance of Washington County, said, “Most everyone in tonight’s group has experienced losing someone from death by suicide … As they light their candles, they can say their name.”

“It used to be people didn’t speak much about suicide,” said Sinnett. “This is a way to say, you don’t have to hide.”

“Around the holiday season, it’s hard for those who have lost loved ones, but it’s particularly hard with suicide because it’s unexpected and cuts deep,” said Miriam Keith, Recovery Advocate for the Washington County Behavioral Health Board and also with the Suicide Awareness Alliance. “It can leave you in shock for quite a while. It’s important that we gather and remember them.”

Karen Binkley, President of the Washington County Behavioral Health Board, said she was glad to see a good turnout for the second year of the vigil. She said it’s important for the survivors left behind to gather and gain support from each other.

LeeAnn Price agreed.

“The first Christmas after I lost my son, I just wanted the world to stop,” said Price, a member of the H.O.P.E. Support group (Helping Other People Endure). “Any time you can get together and share this common tragedy, it forms a bond with people. They know the hurts and burdens that you feel.”

“With kids, it is especially difficult. We always need to stand all families and friends when they need support,” said Rev. Linda Steelman of the First Congregational Church in Marietta.

Steelman was the speaker for the evening and she tries to help people think differently.

“I don’t tell people that they should be over this. You never get over it,” said Steelman.

“I tell them that their loved ones didn’t take their lives… they gave their lives back to the one that made them.”

“This is a difficult time of year,” said Mary Ella Bauer who lost a son. “Any kind of support is a good thing. That’s why we’re here.”

“My son committed suicide three years ago,” said her husband Bill Bauer, a professor at Marietta College. “He was twentyfive years old. The holidays are very rough for us.”

“You hear a song he liked to sing or a holiday thing he liked to do and it is upsetting,” Bill Bauer said. “We try to move on in a positive way.”

Bauer explained that the couple started a non-profit organization called the “Bauer Fund” that offers scholarships and many grants to promote suicide awareness and disability awareness. You can find information about their foundation on Facebook.

For Suicide Warning Signs, Help & Information:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

1 (800) 273-8255

24/7 free, confidential support for people in distress

Suicide Awareness Alliance of Washington County

Washington County Hotline

(740) 373-8240

Washington County Support Group

H.O.P.E. (Helping Other People Endure)

(740) 984-2881

Ohio Crisis Line

Text “4hope” to 741741