There were no words to describe my feelings when my only child, Chris, took his own life. In the beginning there were no words. My soul had been excavated and sent out to sea. Bereft beyond words, in shock and disbelief, only howls of agony escaped my lips. Words were not available for me to utter and words from others could not be heard. Morsels of comfort and solace came from a touch, a hug, or a silent presence. That was the beginning of a journey not of my choosing.

During the days that followed, words came to mean a great deal. In time, I was able to absorb the kindness surrounding me and be grateful for the loving words of family and friends. I learned how this 22-year-old, gentle soul touched and inspired the lives of so many people.

My own words found voice about the story of his last days, the miracle of his birth, and the joys he brought to our lives. My husband and I joined a suicide support group within days after the memorial service. Little did we know on that day that we were joining a community of so many members? We found a community of fellow grievers where we could share our agonies, tears, and stories. Our sense of isolation from the “normal” world was broken. We were not alone. Each story was and is unique but the feelings of the bereaved resonate. We know we are being heard, understood, and valued. The long, arduous journey of healing has taken root.

There are many aspects of this complicated grief that are important to work through in the context of a support group. Diminished self-confidence, guilt, anger, unfulfilled yearnings, and despair are but a few. Our stories must be told, our feelings expressed, and our tears shed for us to find the strength, resilience, and courage to rebuild our lives.

We were told that the gifts of this journey not of our choosing would be a greater capacity for empathy, tolerance, understanding, and love. It has proven true for my husband and me. Those are the gifts not only of support groups but also of the child we so sorely miss. The group provided the framework in which loss was transformed into hope.

Hope Connection is here to reach out to embrace parents who have lost a child to suicide.  A survivor support group for parents is now being formed in Westlake Village. Please call for information:  (818) 788-4673.