Vigil to offer hope to families grieving

Times file photo More than 50 local family members and friends of those who have died by suicide gathered last year in East Muskingum Park for a candlelight vigil. The same vigil will be repeated Sunday.

On Sunday, a pause in the holiday frenzy will honor the families who have lost a loved one to suicide.

“The suicide awareness alliance has been around since 2010 but in the last three years we’ve really ramped up the services offered for what’s called ‘postvention,'” said Miriam Keith with the Washington County Behavioral Health Board. “Sunday we’re holding a candlelight vigil for the third year at East Muskingum Park across from the First Congregational Church.”

Postvention, she said, is the care of families suffering the loss of a loved one, and as holiday celebrations and shopping ramps up this time of year that loss can be felt much more.

So at 6 p.m. Sunday, the Rev. Linda Steelman will again offer brief words of comfort, and the alliance will offer hot chocolate at the free event.

“It’s to give people the opportunity to remember their loved one and maybe say a few words but at least light a candle for them,” said Keith. “Last year there were several recent suicides and their loved ones came. People felt so grateful to not feel so alone.”

The vigil isn’t the only way to feel that support, she said, noting the Helping Other People Endure, or H.O.P.E. group that meets monthly and is coordinated by Lee Ann Price.

“That’s a support group that meets and we also have created a loss team to attend to the immediate needs of a family when a suicide has occurred,” added Keith.

She said last year the vigil saw some 50 local loved ones who had lost a person to suicide in attendance.

“We hold it to at least begin the healing process and recovery journey,” she said. “Unless you’re with someone that’s been sort of in your shoes, it’s hard to relate. So this is a huge opportunity for healing.”

Price said part of the phenomenon that occurred last year at the vigil was a strength imparted from those further along in their grief battle and journey.

“Knowing that you’re not alone in this battle and even helping someone along in this battle helps,” said Price, of Beverly. “My first year after my son completed suicide everyone was just saying ‘Merry Christmas’ but I wanted the world to stop. Part of your heart has been ripped out.”

She said coworkers and friends of someone who died from suicide are also welcome both at the vigil and at the support group held on the second and fourth Mondays of each month at the River Family Christian Center in Waterford.

“Friends and co-workers have the same feelings of ‘why didn’t they talk to us?'” Price said.

If you go:

• What: Hope for the Holidays Candlelight Vigil.

• When: Sunday at 6 p.m.

• Where: East Muskingum Park, Front Street, Marietta.

• Who: All friends and family who have lost a loved one to suicide are welcome to the free event.

Source: Washington County Behavioral Health Board.