Growing programs supports people who have lost loved ones to suicide

     Friends and family members surrounded Cheryl Luxton (center) of Flourtown, Pa. at the Out of the Darkness walk to remember her son Cole, 15. (Lindsay Lazarski/WHYY)

    Friends and family members surrounded Cheryl Luxton (center) of Flourtown, Pa. at the Out of the Darkness walk to remember her son Cole, 15. (Lindsay Lazarski/WHYY)

    After a suicide, those left behind often feel alone in their grief. A growing program is offering resources and ways to connect with others who have had similar experiences.

    The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention runs the “Survivor Outreach Program” which connects the newly bereaved to others who have experienced a similar loss, but have dealt with their grief for a few years. The program now includes video chats and online messaging in addition to personal visits.

    Claire Wolford is Loss and Bereavement Programs Manager for the organization, she says in addition to finding new ways to connect survivors, the program is also finding new ways to make sure word gets out about this resource.

    “We ask our local programs to talk to coroner’s office, funeral homes, hospitals, first responders, so that they can tell people who have just lost somebody to suicide that there’s this program and if you request a visit they can come talk to you,” she said.

    Marcey Ball is one of the volunteers who counsels other via phone, email, or in person. She lost her son to suicide six years ago, he was 14 years old. “I felt isolated and alone,” she said about the first months after his death. “We had never really heard about suicide or warning signs it was just not something people talked about, and when it happened to us, we didn’t know where to turn.”

    Eventually, she found other survivors, she started volunteering for the program, and says helping others has helped her deal with their grief.

    Claire Wolford says demand has been increasing, and the organization is recruiting more volunteers to help out.

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