May 16, 2012
Circle of Life Gathering: Healing Our Grief After Suicide Loss
This is the third year of our four year journey. We are hosting a Gathering for Survivors of Suicide this May 29 and 30th, 2012. The journey is a personal journey for many of us. We are Survivors. A loved One of ours has passed on by way of taking their life. We started this journey with the intent to let people know that they are not alone. There are others that are trying to cope with the loss due to suicide. It is a difficult journey but one that is filled with hope. It is a hope that others will come out and share, while lending us a helping hand and helping others as well.
The Gathering is a two day event that is meant for healing of the many people that have come in contact with suicide. We know there are many types of survivors; the parent, the sibling, the family-daughter/son, friends, colleague, the first responder, the medical personnel, police, care-provider, and the attempted suicide survivor. Those people are all survivors. One thing we do know from experience is that suicide is not an easy subject to talk about. There are the underlining negative perceptions surrounding suicide. Most likely you have heard the clichés and myths; “a cowards way out, loser, talking about suicide invites suicide, suicide attempt is for attention, suicide person wants to die, if a person is suicidal there is nothing you can do to stop it” and so on. The gathering provides an opportunity for survivors to share their ‘event’. It is hard to walk that path of a survivor, especially if you have to walk it alone. We want people to know that they are not alone. The Gathering takes place in a Ceremonial atmosphere. No judgment and no pretense of being experts. We are people walking a path that is hard to do alone. The Gathering utilizes Aboriginal Traditional Teachers, Elders and Healers to facility the sharing of survivors. No one is obligated to come to the Gathering and no one is paid a salary to come to the Gathering. It is individuals that have personal stake in helping others in similar situations. Different Aboriginal Ceremonies have taken place at the previous Gatherings and this year that will happen again. A Give-A-Way Ceremony is an integral part of the Gathering. We are sharing our hearts with the people who attend the Gathering. Honoring their presence with a Give-A-Way Ceremony is one way to thank all the generous people and organizations that support the Gathering.
The theme of this years’ Gathering is Healing our Grief. Elder Peter Kinew has pointed us in that direction. There will be more open and sharing forums for the people at the Gathering. Regrettably, Traditional Elder Ron and Sally McDonald (two of the original organizers and presenters) cannot make it to the Gathering this year, but they continue to support with their good wishes. Ron is graduating from post-secondary education and has conflicting schedules. We know that they continue to work with people and no doubt will be back next year. We will also have Traditional Elder David Blacksmith share on how he is walking through the grief of losing his Mother. Don Courchene has begun the information sharing with the public and is driving the logistics of the Gathering. Don has been actively seeking out donations of support from the business sector in Manitoba.
A number of businesses have come forth with donations to help with the Gathering. The success of the Gathering has been through the generousity and kindness of others. This year Manitoba Public Insurance Corporation will be donating one thousand towards the costs. Larry Penner of Penner oil has made a gift of two thousand dollars to the Gathering in care of Thunderbird House. CTV has donated a four hour hot air balloon ride. The expectation is that we will raffle off the balloon ride to raise some money for the Gathering. Manitoba Hydro has donated 2 backpacks, which will be included in the Give-A-Way Ceremony. David and Sheryl Blacksmith have donated a number of art prints. Edwin Twoheart has made two Single Eagle fans. Larry Solider owner of ARBOC gas station of Swan Lake has donated pop drinks and juice as well as three cans of Tobacco for the Ceremony. Stephanie Eyolfson at Thunderbird House has again donated the use of their building for the Gathering. Stephanie is one of the Champions of the Gathering and is actively involved with the organization of the Gathering. Local Aboriginal talented artist, Jackie Traverse has donated one of her original paintings. Aboriginal owned Teeka Gifts have donated two beaded lanyards. Susan Courchene, with her friends (April Kakepatum, Annette Dugas, Barb Nichol) continue to support the Gathering with the preparation of food and labour. Arlene Patzer has been purchasing food and paper product supplies for the Gathering. Allan Spence has donated fifty dollars towards the Gathering. Bertha Fontaine has donated the paper products for the Feast for the Gathering. Compassionate Friends of Winnipeg will be sharing with the people at the Gathering. Compassionate Friends (Betty and Marchetta) have supported the Gathering from the start and continues to support. We have commitments to help the Gathering from Chickadee Richards, Mitch Bourbonnier, Cheryl James, Billie Schibler, Sheryl Blacksmith and JT Turner . SPEAK (of KLINIC)and Jessica Burton will be on hand with information of Suicide Prevention. Heather Dobson and Denise Everett have become part of the organizing group and are going to be participating at the Gathering. The Gathering is always looking for more help from people and organizations.
Traditional Teacher Gerald Folster (and Don Robson)from Brokenhead Ojibway Nation is participating in the Gathering. Gerald has a Ceremony called the Medicine Tree Ceremony for people who have lost someone to suicide. He is willing to participate in the Gathering and do the Ceremony. Corinne Kennedy of CMK Design designed the poster. In the past we have brought in many guest speakers from various places, but this year we are focusing on local people to lead the Gathering. Native Addictions Council of Manitoba is actively participating in the Gathering this year. Many of the counselors of NACM have deep connections to the cause of helping survivors of suicide and dealing with loss. We are very glad to have all of these talented and supportive people taking part in this years’ Survivor of Suicide Gathering.
We will keep you updated as to the Gathering’s progress. Feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would like to hear from you about the Gathering.
P.S. People have been asking “why do you do this for nothing?” I know my brother Don has been asked that on a few occasions. Elder Peter Kinew has been asked that as well. It is an interesting question to ask and no, the organizing of the Gathering is not done for nothing. Peter once told me he is not interested in making money off the death of his Son. Someone had asked him how much money he was getting for the Gathering. So he was telling me about his response. We do not pay ourselves money nor do we pay speakers to come to the Gathering. For me, I do have an agenda. It is my hope that the minds of people become aware of the effect that suicide has on the survivors. We need to seriously put effort in prevention of suicide and we need to not forget about those left behind. For me personally I don’t want my Son to be only a memory. I want him to live on. I do go around and ask people for help, because I really know we can’t do the Gathering on our own. We need people to emotional invest in the cause of prevention and helping those left behind. We need awareness about suicide. It should not be a ten second sound bite on the news. It is real long lasting and devastation to those left behind. I really want the Leaders to understand that there are people out there that need support; an open ear for listening is what they need. That is my agenda: I want people to become aware of the devastation from suicide and to stop from happening to their family, their friends. I wear my Grief and it is an open wound that I am not sure can heal.
Again, thank you for all the support and for those good thoughts.