by Jennifer Keeling
Donor Engagement Manager, Black Box Project
I remember when my husband died by suicide in 2009, I disliked the term “survivor”.
In the beginning, it did not feel like I was surviving anything. I was just existing. It took every amount of effort I had to just get myself out of bed in the morning. I was isolated, I couldn’t remember how to do the most basic things, like fixing food (thankfully I had electricity and didn’t have to make a fire and shelter…see more about that later) Fighting through the tremendous pain and heartbreak was an every day challenge of physical and mental determination.
Fast foward, now 13 years later, I’ve reflected on that time as a new “survivor.”
Honestly, every day felt like the tv show aptly named “Survivor”. For those who have never seen the show, the premise is that a group of strangers are left on an island where they must provide food, fire, and shelter for themselves. During the show the contestants must go through a series of physical and mental challenges to determine who can withstand the most and outlast the other contestants. This made me think of the definition of the word “survivor” and how accurately this show represents the real life meaning. Basic needs can be a struggle. The mental challenges are draining.
As time went on, I realized how when each day passed it meant that I had “survived” another day.
But If I made it through that one day then I could make it through the next. What I began to realize was how resilient suicide loss survivors really are. The things that should break us cause us to find new ways to bend.
With the support of other suicide loss survivors, we help each other through those everyday challenges. Instead of competing to see who can outlast the other, we join together to lift each other up.
International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day is November 19. This is a day that all of us who have been directly impacted by a suicide loss can come together to honor and remember our loved ones.
On this day of reverence for those who left this world too soon, let us come together and stand tall and be proud to call ourselves SURVIVORS. For us. And for them.
If you or someone you know has also found yourself with the unwanted title of “survivor”, please know you are not alone. There are other suicide loss survivors out here who understand, who will listen and support you. Your story matters, and the life your loved one lived matters. Survival mode won’t last forever, but your loved one's legacy will through you.
Suicide loss survivors are continuing their legacy through Black Box Project, and you can learn more and get involved at www.stopsoldiersuicide.org/blackboxproject.
If you or a loved one needs help, call Stop Soldier Suicide 24/7 at 844.907.1342 or submit an online help request. Third-party submissions are encouraged and accepted.
If you want to do more to support suicide intervention services at SSS, you can donate directly or join The Battalion or a Facebook Challenge.