Wheezy McGee

Wheezy McGee sits outside the Tullahoma Art Center before The international Survivors of Suicide Loss Day event.  McGee is an 18-month-old Pyrenees-Catahoula who was a road-rescue found in Lynchburg when he was about three months old.  McGee received his therapy training at PetSmart in Tullahoma last year.

The Tullahoma Center played host to an event Saturday for the International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day.

Survivor Day is recognized by the United States Congress as a day when friends and family who have lost a loved one to suicide come together for healing and support.

One of the organizers of the event, Laurie Herber, representing the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, came from the state of Washington to work with community volunteers to provide a safe space for attendees to discuss suicide loss and grief. 

“Each year, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention supports hundreds of large and small Survivor Day events around the world, in which suicide loss survivors come together to find connection, understanding, and hope through their shared experience,” said Herber.

Herber is also a suicide loss survivor herself, so she understands the attendees’ emotions about suicide loss.

“I’m humbled beyond measure by the courage of anyone who came through that and walked through that door, as some can’t just get up and talk about this. It’s beyond measurement of the heroism that I saw today,” said Herber.

The event had resources provided to attendees and therapy dogs available for anyone needing support. 

The event also saw attendees come together in a group session, and partaking in various activities.  One of the activities was watching a short film created for Survivor Day 2019, as a film is created for each year for Survivor Day, and discussing the film as a group. 

Then the large group broke into smaller groups to talk to each other about their own experiences of losing someone to suicide, how they were currently grieving and what activities they were doing to help them grieve. 

“As survivors, it can be very powerful when we come together as a group to acknowledge each other while remembering, sharing, learning and healing in community,” said Herber.

As the event came to an end, many attendees were embracing each other with hugs and words of encouragement while exchanging numbers to keep in touch. It was agreed amongst the group that Tullahoma needed more support groups.

“The next step into serving the community is to provide grieving support groups,” said Herber.  AFSP provides training for anyone interested in leading these support groups.

With seeing how everyone was responding positively to the event, Herber is looking forward to creating a support group within the county.

“Moving forward, it’s my privilege to see to it that folks who are willing to get the training to have survivor support groups meet on a weekly basis in this county and we will assess with the chapter where else the need is not being fulfilled in the state of Tennessee,” said Herber.

If you are in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8256) or contact the crisis text line by texting TALK to 741-741.

Kyle Murphy may be reached at kmurphy@tullhomanews.com.

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