When the suicide support group Lost Loves started more than a year ago, the group’s founder never dreamed of the healing it would offer others or herself.
But Elizabeth “Bits” Siller said supporting others has helped her cope with her own daughter’s death three years ago.
Connecting with survivors has also given her new purpose in life.
“I feel like I am actually doing something for the community and they are going to be able to handle this a little bit better than they were before they came to our group,” she said, “and I am healing inside.”
The group continues to meet once a month at the Senior Circle, providing a safe place for survivors to tell their story and mourn the loss of their loved one.
Next month, the group has invited the Roundup to attend a meeting and hear other survivors’ stories.
Siller said they want to reach others dealing with the devastating impact of suicide.
On average, six to nine people attend each month, a number that has slowly increased. Siller believes many others could benefit from attending.
The group includes those that have lost a sibling, parent, significant other, adult child or friend.
One woman lost her husband seven years ago, but had not dealt with the loss until she found the group, Siller said.
Another had lost someone to suicide less than a year ago.
Grief knows no time frame and Siller encourages anyone impacted by a loved one’s suicide to attend.
For Siller, no such group existed in Rim Country when her daughter died in 2009. Looking for someone who could understand her pain, she found suicide support groups in the Valley.
Knowing that not everyone could make that trip, she vowed to start a Payson group.
Siller teamed up with Janine Affeldt, a bereavement coordinator at Hospice Compassus and Lost Loves’ group facilitator.
Affeldt said the value of the group lies in the understanding offered to survivors.
“They understand their isolation and the need to tell their story over and over again,” she said.
Siller said an important part of grieving suicide is talking about it. At Lost Loves, attendees can tell their story as many times as they need to and “we don’t get tired of it,” Siller said.
New members are encouraged to reveal their lost loved ones name, even if they aren’t ready to talk about it.
Participation in group discussions is voluntary and some people find healing just by listening, Affeldt said.
Each meeting starts with a candle lighting ceremony and a brief poem. Attendees then introduce themselves and talk about how they feel in a safe and comfortable place.
For Siller, the group has been both a comfort and a challenge.
At first, she felt uncomfortable talking about her daughter and dealing with the memories she had hidden away.
Siller said she has also learned when to take a step back from the group and let Affeldt lead the meeting. To her surprise, helping others played a key role in her own healing and helped her “rejoin the human race.”
“It makes me feel so good to help these people in some small way because they can relate to me,” she said.
She thanks Affeldt for her help and guidance.
Lost Loves meets the first Thursday of each month from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Senior Circle, 215 N. Beeline Highway.
For more information, contact Siller at (928) 468-2133.