There’s help for survivors of suicide

To the editor:

Nov. 22 is National Survivors of Suicide Day, a day to educate the public about suicide and its aftermath, and a day to provide support to those left behind. 

Suicide is the second leading cause of death in New Hampshire for young people aged 10 to 35 and the fourth leading cause of death for ages 35 to 54. Last year, 150 people in New Hampshire died by suicide, leaving behind at least 1,000 family, friends, co-workers and neighbors to deal with unexplainable loss and powerful emotions.

Six years ago, we found ourselves stranded, without warning, in the black vastness of a wild Atlantic ocean. We had no skills for survival. We felt abandoned. We bobbed up and down, gasping for breath in the dark ferocious swells, hoping to survive.

Hopefully, this scenario can convey to the reader to some degree what it is like to hear the words, “Your loved one has died by suicide.” We found ourselves in that drowning sea when our son died by suicide at age 22.

Six years have passed since that fateful day. Thanks to the National Alliance on Mental Illness-NH, a lifeline reached us. First it was in the form of the Survivors of Suicide Life Keepers Quilt, which allowed us to honor our son in a loving, meaningful way. The quilt project also connected us with other survivors who understood our anguish and pain individuals who knew of the labored breathing and heavy sighs every minute of the day in the early stages of grief.

The lifesaving did not end with the quilt, it was just the beginning. Luckily for us, we connected with a suicide support group, which provided us with a safe place to talk and to listen to other survivors. Today, there are eight suicide support groups throughout the New Hampshire. We have found it so helpful for our own healing to be with others who understand what a struggle it is to heal after a death by suicide.

Another wonderful opportunity came to us via the National Survivors of Suicide Day Teleconference, held yearly on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. People who have lost someone to suicide will be gathering from noon to 3 p.m. at five locations around the state – Concord, Nashua, Littleton, Westmoreland and Portsmouth. Together, we will participate in the American Foundation for the Prevention of Suicide’s 10th annual teleconference and will provide support to each other. The event is free of charge and is open to anyone who has been affected by suicide. It can also be watched live at

It is impossible to “get over” a suicide, but it is possible to learn new ways to go on with living in the absence of a loved one.

Wayne and Marie Gagnon

Categories: Cook on Concord