Joy Redstone: Confronting suicide: Loss can derail us

Once a month, we sit in a church basement and talk about suicide. The purpose of the HOPE Coalition of Boulder County is to prevent suicides in our community, but that work waits until after each has shared. Many of us are recovering from the suicide of a family member. Stigma shrouds any conversation about suicide and we push aside that veil.

Sometimes, these “check-ins” are lengthy as we discuss our messy lives. Our lives are messy with intergenerational trauma, addiction, disabilities of various sorts, and mental illness. We are the helpers and the survivors and sometimes we are both. At times, we ramble and cry. But we do not begin our work until each of us has spoken. In our helping roles, we are counselors, teachers, social workers, volunteers, foster parents (and more) and this opportunity to talk about ourselves may be rare for us. Even those of you that love us often fall silent when this word arises, not knowing how to bear witness.

But, speaking for myself, I know that I regard this meeting with both dread and gratitude. It is sticking my toe back in the River Styx, and since my husband’s suicide, I have grown increasingly loath to remember. It has become easier to stay on the surface — it is rare now that the unbidden tears come to my eyes, and even rarer that I start with surprise when I see a stranger with an uncanny resemblance. In May, it will be four years and I like to think that it is enough to remember on the actual anniversary. But, if I am honest with myself, there is always a dark river inside: one whose banks threaten to overflow with grief, anger, guilt and relief.

Loss can derail us, and sometimes so badly that we no longer allow ourselves to live fully. Without judgment, I know that living can feel like a betrayal and thus our tribute to them is to refuse ourselves a full life. There are many ways to do that, and the pathways to numbness are rife in our modern lives.

But we are survivors and we have not chosen numbness. The members of the HOPE Coalition of have chosen service, and it is the strength of their love that fuels the dedication of their service.

I think often of one of the members who lost both/all of her children to suicide. When you have suffered a loss, sometimes you compare yourself to others with more grievous losses, and so I think of her. She is a spiritual person and gives to our community in more ways than you could ever guess. In my unsteady moments, I think of her transmutation of such blinding pain to service and I am steadied. Another member lost her son. She is a therapist and I imagine the betrayal she feels towards counselors that spoke to him in the weeks before his death and did not even ask the question, despite his obvious despair. She spends time teaching mental health professionals how to assess for suicide, and she does it with patience and grace. I think of her generosity of spirit and am awed.

I want you to know about the HOPE Coalition because the work is important. It’s our commitment to tirelessly promote films, talks, workshops, and other community activities. We do it for you, of course, because we want you to have any and all pieces of information that might alleviate your despair. And we do it to give you the tools to help those that are suffering. We do it in memory of those whom we have loved. It is our tribute of love.

Love can only do so much, of course. Our love did not heal them. Our love did not take away the insufferable pain and burdens that they experienced. Our love did not accompany them over the final threshold that they crossed.

But we continue to bear witness to our love by speaking the unspeakable. It is so difficult to say the word suicide, and my heart is clenched in a fist every time I say the word aloud. We bear witness to our love and remember the lost once a month. And, after our moment of breaking the silence, we turn to the work at hand, so that you, too, may feel the strength of our grip if you are slipping away.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call (24/7) 1-844-493-TALK (8255) or text TALK to 38255. If you would like more information about the HOPE Coalition of Boulder County or are interested in becoming a member of the coalition, please visit our website at



Originally posted by The Daily Camera 04/24/2018