Light a Candle for Suicide Prevention
At 8PM on September 10th, the International Association for Suicide Prevention has asked that a candle be lit near a window to show support for suicide prevention efforts around the world.
I will be lighting a candle. (Though it will be lit with a battery operated LED bulb out of deference to the hot, dry Southern California summer.)
In 2009 my oldest daughter Lena (Lala) committed suicide while attending college at UC Santa Cruz. Laurel Canyon was my home then and had been for 20 years. Many of my friends were members of the community. Within an hour of getting the horrible news, my house had filled with neighbors and nearby friends. They surrounded me with love and support and made sure someone stayed with me until my parents arrived from the midwest. For the next couple of weeks, friends and neighbors delivered meals, performed chores, walked dogs - whatever they could think of doing to help my family and me move through the early days of heart crushing grief. In the year that followed, my canyon friends organized a quilting bee that met regularly, each member making a square that became part of a quilt memorializing my daughter.
Nearly four years have gone by since my daughter's death. Looking back, I cannot imagine how I would have survived without the support of my community.
A year ago, I moved to Sherman Oaks. At first I felt vulnerable and alone. Quite quickly, though, I began to meet my new neighbors and feel at home.
Becoming part of a community helps us feel less isolated and afraid. Within them we can find others who relate to our struggles and triumphs, the experiences that define who we are. The month she died, my daughter had moved from the college dormitory to a small apartment building far off campus. The neighborhood was not only strange to her, but rundown, a little scary. No other students lived in her building. The night she hanged herself, her roommate had gone home to Santa Barbara for the weekend. I will always wonder if my daughter would still be alive had she stayed on campus, among a community that was as familiar with her as she was with it.
I write a blog, lalasmom.com, about dealing with the death of a child by suicide. More and more people from around the world are starting to read the blog and contact me. Some of these people are grieving a suicide, some are depressed and considering suicide. They reach out to me, a stranger miles away, because they think there is no one nearby who understands.
There may be someone like this in your community. Maybe it's your neighbor or someone who passes your house on their way home from work. Lighting a candle near your window on September 10th is a way to let them know that someone in their community understands how they feel. Lighting a candle is a way to tell them they aren't alone.